Location is very important. All insects are cold blooded and cannot internally regulate their body temperature. Butterflies will readily bask in the sun when it is warm, but few are seen on cloudy days. It is a good idea to leave open areas for butterflies to sun themselves, as well as partly shaded areas with trees or shrubs for shelter when it’s cloudy or too hot.
Butterflies like puddles. Males of several species congregate at small rain pools, forming puddle clubs. Permanent puddles are easy to make. Bury a bucket to the rim, fill it with gravel or sand, and then pour in sweet drinks or water
Different types of butterflies have different preferences of nectar color and taste. A wide variety of food plants will give the greatest diversity of visitors. Try staggering wild and cultivated plants, as well as blooming times. Groups of the same plants are easier for butterflies to see than single flowers. Aster, butterfly weed, purple coneflower and verbena attract many species of butterflies. Overripe fruit is attractive to butterflies as well.
Water your garden with soaker hoses whenever possible. Overhead watering can wash nectar from the flowers and reduce the amount of available food.
Another way to attract butterflies to your garden is to offer food plants for females to lay their eggs. Some females are picky about the host plants where they will lay their eggs. To attract a particular type of butterfly, you may need to know the plant needs for the adult and the larvae or caterpillar. The Salato Native Plant Program grows many plants that provide food for caterpillars and butterflies. These plants are available through the outdoor classroom program.
Butterfly gardens are a great source for learning about your own backyard environment. They also offer enjoyment, photo opportunities and an outlet for artistic talent. By creating a garden habitat, you can help conserve butterflies by providing food, water and shelter to some of nature’s most enchanting creatures.
To learn more about plants available through the Salato Native Plant Program, contact Mary Carol Cooper at the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources at 502-564-5280.
For more information about 4-H gardening projects, contact the Logan County Cooperative Extension Service.