Thursday, July 12, 2012

How to Attract Butterflies to Your Garden, Part 2, Nectar plants

longtail skipper 2

In the last entry, I discussed host plants and how they attract and keep butterflies in the garden (read previous entry to learn more). Nectar plants also play a key role in enticing butterflies to flutter throughout the garden. Native plants are especially attractive to insects. Adult butterflies love red, yellow, orange, pink, and purple blossoms. Both annuals and perennials should be distributed throughout the garden. Choose plants that bloom throughout the growing season. Plants blooming mid- to late summer are especially beneficial since this is the period when butterflies are most active.

   flower for blog big Long-tailed skipper caterpillar for book

The Butterfly Pea plant is a flowering vine that is on my “favorites list.” Besides being attractive for butterflies and bees, it is also a host plant for the long-tailed skipper and has edible flowers. While staying in the jungles of Costa Rica, I learned from friends that this flower is indeed edible as you can see in the salad bowl below. It also has hibiscus leaves as well. Remember, always identify a plant before sticking it in your mouth!



Echinacea purpurea is both a nectar plant and a herb. It is a herb that boosts immunity therefore reducing the duration of a cold. This Gray Hairstreak finds Echinacea to be a perfect perch.

bee on flower

Flowers rich in nectar and pollen also attract bees. Colorful flowers are attractive to bees and will keep them coming back for more! If you have a vegetable garden, try intercropping with flowers. This will add color, beauty, and pollinators to your garden. This is exactly what every garden needs for good produce and seed production.

oleander moth

Two years ago, I raised a bunch of Oleander moths for fun. They are so beautiful compared to other bland moths! This moth is resting on a Porter weed. This flowering bush attracts all sorts of insects and even hummingbirds.


I love Bumble bees! Their fuzzy bodies and large size make them fascinating to me. I can’t help sticking my nose right up to bees to watch them do what they do best. I haven’t got stung yet! The wasps in my garden are more vicious and will eat any butterfly caterpillar they can find. My book, shows how to make a nursery for raising and protecting caterpillars. It also shows my butterfly pavilion and portable garden box.


Cassia trees are host plants for the Cloudless Sulphur butterflies. When in bloom, they are completely covered in yellow blossoms.

silver-spotted skipper

Whether big or small, every butterfly garden provides a home for butterflies, insects, and other small garden friends. Planting a diversity of plants along with native plants does make a difference. If everyone does a little, it adds up to a lot.

I’m leaving for Kentucky tomorrow to visit my grandparents! I’ll be gone for 17 days. I will share my many adventures when I return. Everyone, enjoy the rest of your summer!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

How to Attract Butterflies to Your Garden, Part 1

Butterflies can tell us a lot about the health of our environment. A healthy ecosystem generates a habitat that flourishes with butterflies. To attract and keep butterflies in your yard, you should include both host and nectar plants. So what are host plants? They are plants that butterflies lay eggs on and hatched caterpillars feast on . They are critical to the survival of our fluttering friends. Without them, butterflies would become extinct. Below, you will learn more about different host plants and the 5 butterflies they attract. I will also share some of my personal experience that has come with more than 3 years of studying butterflies.

Passion Flower
Zebra Longwing and Gulf Fritillary


The passion flower is a vine that is not just planted for beauty, but also is a magnet for Gulf Fritillaries. I have found that passion flower planted in full sun attracts more Gulf Fritillaries and when planted in the shade, it attracts Zebra Longwings. I waited three years and finally the Zerbra Longwings discovered my passion flower. Now, they are everywhere!

Zebra longwing blog  Gulf Fritillary 2

Monarchs and Queen butterflies


Monarchs are one of the most famous of all butterflies. Their territory is wide spread and their migration is an incredible journey that fascinates young and old alike. Habitat destruction and wide spread use of pesticides pose the greatest threat to Monarchs. Planting Milkweed, replacing grass with wildflowers, raising caterpillars, and discontinuing use of pesticides are all ways you can help.

Get free Milkweed seeds!

Monarch butterfly Monarch for book 

 queen butterfly

Black Swallowtail


Be prepared to share dill, fennel, and parsley if you have a herb garden. It is worth some chewed up leaves to rear this beautiful Swallowtail butterfly. Just don’t get them mad. The caterpillars have an osmeterium which they can release and they are not afraid to use it! It smells bad and if the caterpillar rubs it on your finger (has happened to me). The smells does not come out very easy.

 butterfly emerged (resized) black swallowtail 9 days old (resized)

caterpillar osterium for book close up 

Wild Petunia and Water Hyssop
White Peacock

White Peacock IMG_2516

These fuzzy caterpillars are fun to raise. I raised hundreds of them and I’ve never lost my fascination with them. They have a fuzzy appearance and have an amazing ability that I discovered by mistake. These little critters can float! God gave them this ability because one of their host plants, water hyssop, grows in wet places. If in danger, they fall off their plant and float. While researching butterflies for writing my first book, I discovered so many things. The internet is useful, but personal research is important as well.IMG_5864 IMG_1182

Cloudless Sulphur

butterfly for book  Cassia flowers for book

Cloudless Sulphur butterflies often visit Cassia trees, along with some others in the Sulphur family. In Florida, the flowers bloom late summer to fall. They cover the tree with blossoms and are a beautiful sight. The trees grow very fast though, and tends to shade my vegetable bed. Since it is a native to our area, it requires little other care besides an occasional trimming.

caterpillar in bud for book  

Elizabeth’s Funny Caterpillar Moments

Monarch heart

To show their love for my garden, my caterpillar chewed a heart in a Milkweed leaf!