To attract butterflies, feed caterpillars first
June 21, 2011 by admin
By Amber Veverka
Gardening season is well underway but you can still draw butterflies to your yard with some quick and easy plantings.
Most of us think of flowers when we think of attracting butterflies, but the key to witnessing an entire life cycle is to plant food for their caterpillars, as well. At Wing Haven Gardens in Charlotte, there’s a children’s butterfly garden, and programs occasionally offered on drawing butterflies to your property, said Dia Steiger, executive director.
She provides a handout on recommended plants for both the larval and adult stages of the insects. Some caterpillar-friendly plants: Clover, for clouded and alfalfa sulphurs, passionflower for gulf fritillary, snapdragons for buckeyes. “Children love butterflies; they’re so pretty,” Steiger said. “And they’re good pollinators.”
Swallowtails are particularly easy for children to raise in the house. Collect a couple of caterpillars in a plastic or glass container with screen over the top. They don’t need leaves and grass and soil — just the plant you found them eating, tucked in a tiny jar of water with foil covering the opening to prevent the caterpillar from falling in and drowning.
Change the food and clean out the droppings daily. Put in a stick for the chrysalis to attach to. Be sure not to touch or move the forming chrysalis, as it will damage the insect. When the butterfly begins to emerge, take the container outside and open it so it can open its wings fully and allow them to dry.
Monarchs’ sole host plant is milkweed, which comes in several forms. Many milkweed plants grow very tall, making them better in a backyard than a front yard. You can buy plants or gather the dried seed pods from country roadsides in the autumn and scatter the seed.
Bumblebees love the sweet-scented blossoms and female monarchs lay their tiny yellow eggs on the undersides of the leaves. You will find the hatched caterpillars by watching for droppings and chewed leaves.