A butterfly is a beautiful creature when you see one in your garden. As they go fluttering along near flower pots, everyone is enchanted by the creatures’ delicate, colorful wings and the growth they personify by shedding cocoons and taking flight.
Beauty is not the only attribute that can be associated with these insects. They are also regulators of our natural ecosystem. As such, we need to create spaces where they can flourish. Butterfly gardens, with environments conducive to these creatures’ rehabilitation, are the perfect examples of such areas.
Why Are Butterflies Important?
Unfortunately, many people don’t take the initiative of setting up butterfly gardens because they aren’t aware of the benefits butterflies bring! For starters, butterflies are one of the most active pollinators of flowers and food crops. Drawn to bright, nectar-producing plants, they hop from one flower to the next, transporting pollen and contributing to the emergence of new plant species.
Can Butterflies Help With Pest Control?
Butterflies also help with pest control. Aphids – those small sap-eating insects, for instance, have much to fear when it comes to the harvester butterfly species. This is because they prey on the former, protecting plants that aphid attacks could have damaged.
Larvae To The Rescue!
Additionally, the butterfly caterpillar or larva also feeds on plants. This ensures that crops don’t propagate to the point where they become difficult to manage. Adult butterflies may even eat the wasting parts of a fruit, which can help in eliminating environmental waste.
What Can We Learn From Butterflies?
Moreover, because butterflies are such delicate creatures, keeping a close watch on their population can help us understand if our ecosystem is in balance, or if something is wrong.
With environmental factors impacting butterflies, keeping track of when bigger or smaller groups visit the gardens, can open up conversations about the reasons behind these observations, and lead to more critical discussions about climatic conditions.
Finally, interacting with butterflies is a great way to learn how eco-biology works. Supervising children in watching the metamorphosis process whereby a caterpillar transforms into a butterfly can be both awe-inspiring and informative!
Noting the advantages butterflies offer, it becomes more exciting to think about building a butterfly garden. Keep in mind that you must create the most suitable atmosphere in this space so that these creatures are motivated to pay a visit.
Crucial Components Of A Perfect Butterfly Garden
The first thing to know about butterfly gardens is that they are not restricted by size. You can start as small as you want and set one up in your back yard, or even indoors, in a large kitchen container.
But, researching what butterflies species you want to attract is more critical. Whether they are native to your location and whether you have access to flowers that can make your garden welcome.
1. Picking The Plants
Selecting the right plants is crucial for your butterfly garden. Some factors to remember when choosing flower species include:
- We need to ensure that the plants offer a food source for butterflies. Nectar-producing flowers provide nourishment to adult butterflies and thus attract them more.
- Opting for host plants that can be sites where butterflies lay their eggs. Host plants also house butterfly larva in different stages of their growth.
- Growing plants that protect butterflies from adversity. For instance, while you want to make your garden as warm and sunny as possible, you don’t want to plant flowers that provide no cover from the scorching heat. Foliage that can hide butterflies from predators should also be considered.
- Identifying plant species that work for butterflies who don’t migrate. This is important because you might come across species that stay in one region throughout the year. Use this to your advantage. Invest in flowers that are most attractive for these butterfly families right from the start so that you don’t have to keep learning from trial and error over the long term.
- Incorporating plants that bloom at different times of the year. This is important because you don’t want flowers that can thrive in the summer and go dormant in the winter. Such a composition will leave butterflies without a food source when frosty weather hits!
2. Pests And Predators
In butterfly gardens, butterflies’ safety is paramount, and you want to ensure that pests and predators cannot harm these creatures.
Make sure that pests and predators cannot harm the butterflies in your garden! But don’t go overboard.
But, in trying to provide this protection, don’t opt for solutions that can be self-sabotaging. For example, most people rely on the heavy use of insecticides and pesticides to drive pests away from butterflies. They don’t realize that the latter will suffer too because butterflies themselves are sensitive to chemicals!
A better approach is to rely on natural remedies, and you can plant flowers that act as pest repellants. These will protect your butterflies and keep other creatures at bay. For instance, rosemary and lemongrass are examples of herbs that drive mosquitoes away while your butterflies thrive.
What About Insects As Pesticides?
Some insects also act as natural pesticides. But you will have to be careful in selecting which ones to introduce to your butterfly garden.
Although some creatures, like spiders, can eat smaller pests faster, they can attack butterflies too. Ladybugs are a much better solution because while they get rid of insects like grubs, whiteflies, and mites, they don’t get in the butterflies’ way.
If you have a pest problem that you couldn’t resolve with natural mechanisms, try to use non-toxic pesticides. For instance, homemade onion puree can ward off aphids, and beer cups placed on the ground can repel slugs and snails. You can also try out mint oil to drive off flying pests while your butterflies can safely feed.
When it comes to larger predators such as birds, you can use specific tools to scare them away. Fake inflatable snakes, for example, are good at repelling crows and sparrows.
You can also install an apparatus that can direct birds’ attention away from spaces populated with butterflies. A bird feeder, kept far away from a host plant where butterfly larva lives, can ensure that birds don’t encroach on butterfly territory!
3. Look Out For “Logistics”
Design and layout are important considerations when you start setting up your butterfly garden. A logistical setup that supports the creatures, instead of jeopardizing their safety, or hampering their mobility, attracts more butterflies.
To begin with, access to a water source is vital. Ensure you don’t set up water stations in the form of open ponds or bird feeders, as drinking from these could expose the butterflies to predators. Instead, go for smaller puddles or containers that you fill with water and equip with sticks or stones to act as landing spots.
Planting flowers of different heights and shapes can help create microclimates that can support different butterflies. For instance, while some butterflies may feed more in the open, others might want to stay hidden nearer to the ground to avoid predators.
What Kind Of Flowers Draw Butterflies?
A garden is more attractive to butterflies if it groups plants by color. Remember that these insects are attracted to bright colors, and it is easier for them to spot color in a field of the same flowers rather than when a single flower sprouts in a corner.
Another feature you should incorporate in the layout is flower blooms. Blooming flowers provide nectar for food. But, the larger a bloom is, the more space it creates for a butterfly to rest on while feeding. A resting place can prevent exhaustion and allow the insect to feed more comfortably.
What Temperature Do Butterflies Like To Hang Out In?
When you research on the logistics of your garden, you must not forget to check whether the native butterfly species who will come visiting, prefer forest-like shaded environments, or warm, sunny ones.
Generally, most butterflies prefer warmth, and it is a good idea if the garden site receives ample sunshine. An air temperature ranging from 50 to 60°F (about 10 to 15°C) usually activates butterflies and helps them feed and fly. But, some species prefer cooler spaces, and you will have to investigate and proceed accordingly.
To support the growth of butterflies, make sure your garden is not congested. Planting all the flowers in a single bunch, too close together and without any consideration for space, can make it uncomfortable for butterflies to feed on them.
They need room to spread their wings out so that they can grow to their natural size. Crowded environments can stunt this growth.
You can also incorporate other design elements such as small pebbles and gravel in your butterfly gardens. These can provide platforms for the insects to bask in.
4. Different Maintenance Methods
Butterfly gardens are not too difficult to maintain. Most of the effort needed to help them thrive is invested right at the beginning when they are set up. You will have to practice garden maintenance basics to ensure that butterflies continue to feel comfortable visiting.
Make sure you are watering your flowers to promote their growth and allow for nectar production. Also, don’t delay weeding because weeds can take away nutrients from the flowers. This will hinder the growth of your flowers, and they can’t offer much for the butterflies.
Remember to water your butterfly garden regularly!
Mulch may be an essential garden component. After all, it is often used to preserve soil fertility and contribute to plant growth. It may come as a surprise that much of the mulch sold today comes laden with chemicals and dyes, which might harm your flowers and stop their growth.
When it comes to maintaining your butterfly garden, tread with caution when you use mulch or fertilizer. You want to ensure plants provide a food source for the butterflies. For that, they need to grow and function effectively.
High Hopes For Homeless Butterflies
Building a butterfly garden can be a noble endeavor. In contemporary times, the destruction of natural habitats by the human race has led to the depletion of butterfly populations.
The beautiful monarch butterfly, for instance, is hurtling towards extinction. In the last twenty years, fewer groups of this butterfly family migrate to Mexico, with the insect population falling below the lowest recorded number of 35 million in recent history.
The National Wildlife Federation explains the reason behind this. They claim that since the 1990s, this butterfly species has depleted by a staggering 90% due to the loss of its natural living space, which has been turned into agricultural land.
Because there are fewer butterflies left, migrations now take place with smaller groups crossing borders.
Knowing how butterflies are threatened by the attack of industrialization on biodiversity, conservation of spaces that can protect these creatures becomes incumbent.
Butterfly gardens emerge as locations that can safeguard endangered butterflies, and your contribution to setting them up can reward you with a sense of purpose and accomplishment. Let’s start working with nature again and let butterflies and other insects find a home from your garden!