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.
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!
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.
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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.
Wild Petunia and Water Hyssop
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, http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/elizabethmann I discovered so many things. The internet is useful, but personal research is important as well.
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.
Elizabeth’s Funny Caterpillar Moments
To show their love for my garden, my caterpillar chewed a heart in a Milkweed leaf!