Butterfly Gardening

• Excerpted from the Southern Wisconsin Butterfly Association

Butterfly Garden Butterfly gardening adds beauty to your yard and provides habitat for butterflies. Much critical butterfly habitat has been lost, so any butterfly-friendly terrain we provide as gardeners can help many species survive. Once butterflies appear in your yard, it’s great fun to learn to identify them, take photographs, and observe behavior.

Butterfly gardening is easy to do; you need to follow a few simple guidelines: choose a sunny location, plant both caterpillar food plants and species that provide nectar for butterflies, avoid using pesticides and herbicides, remember not to throw away plant debris (chrysalises may be on those dead plants), provide shelter (shrubs/trees) and moisture sources, and learn to identify caterpillars.

Wait! Caterpirllars are eating my plants!

• If you find a caterpillar, remember that butterfly gardeners must learn to like or at least tolerate caterpillars! Plants almost always recover from caterpillar munching as many butterflies lay only a few eggs on each plant, and the caterpillars can only eat so much. You may want to give food plants extra water and compost. Your benevolence will be rewarded with more beautiful butterflies gracing your yard. It’s helpful to learn how to identify butterfly caterpillars, many of which are really cool looking, so you know which ones to spare

Planning and Caring for a Butterfly Garden

Monarch Caterpillar Eating Milkweed Plant • When designing your garden, select plants that are good nectar. It is also important to include caterpillar food. (See Pollen and Nectar Food Sources for Butterflies and Caterpillars).

• Avoid using pesticides and herbicides.

• Provide shelter and resting spots. Include trees and shrubs in your yard; they provide butterflies with spots to roost overnight and escape predators, heat, wind, rain. Place large flat rocks where they will be warmed by the morning sun. Butterflies will use these rocks to bask so they can warm up enough to fly on cool mornings.

• Select a garden spot that gets at least six hours of sun each day, with some protection from wind if possible.

• Provide moisture by filling a shallow container with sand, bury it. Keep it moist so your butterflies can sip water and nutrients. Or scrape a small depression to create a moist area (water as needed).

• Some butterflies, such as Mourning Cloak, prefer sap or rotten fruit to nectar. Place rotted bananas or watermelon in a shallow dish in a location where wasps will not be a problem.

• Learn to identify your butterfly caterpillars. (See Caterpillar Identification Guide).