Rose Johnson,Kane County Master Gardener, gave a delightful presentation on gardening to attract butterflies to your garden.
Butterfly gardening is a wonderful way to connect us with the cycle of life. Many butterfly plants are great garden plants and have terrific ornamental value. Many of these same plants also attract birds.
- Butterfly Basics. They undergo complete metamorphosis, changing from egg, caterpillar, pupa, then adults. The pupal stage is a cocoon for a moth, and a chrysalis for a butterfly. Dill is an excellent host plant for Black Swallowtail butterfly caterpillars.
- Butterflies have specific habitats, and they use plants native to Illinois.
- Good books - Field Guide to the Butterflies of Illinois and Field Guide to the Silkmoths of Illinois. www.butterfliesandmoths.org is a great website that has info for every county in the US.
- Butterflies need: sun, shelter, water, good habitat for all stages and food. To attract butterflies you should provide for all their needs for all their stages - not just plants with nectar. Do not use pesticides in the area as this will kill them. (Pesticides do not differentiate between good and bad insects).
- Shelter should be provided to product them from the wind.
- Butterflies need water - a dish of moist sand or rocks, or damp soil are good ways to provide this. You don't need a deep puddle as this might attract mosquitoes. Male butterflies often congregate in moist areas to get salt. Females don't "puddle" in this way.
- Female butterflies search for specific plants for egg laying. Eg Monarchs depend specifically on milkweed plants (eg Asclepias) for their caterpillars.
- Good caterpillar plants: carrot, parsley, violets, thistles, dill
- Most butterfly adults drink nectar and some drink from rotting fruit such as watermelon pieces or cantaloupe rinds. Try to have nectar sources available all spring, summer, fall, and use masses of flowers to attract them, rather than single plants. Make sure to have a lot of late blooming flowers. Many good flowers have small tubular flowers, "landing pads" are nice for them such as daisies. The colors of the flowers don't seem to matter much.
- Good annual plants: Mexican sunflower, globe amaranth, zinnia, Black-eyed Susan, Verbena, pentas, lantana, marigold. Good perennials include catmint (nepeta), anise hyssop (agastache), New Jersey Tea shrub (ceanothus), salvia, beebalm (monarda), blazing star (liatris), sedum, asters, butterfly bush (buddleia), purple coneflower, (echinacea), pincushion flower (scabiosa), butterfly weed (asclepias), ironweed (veronica), goldenrod (solidago), joe pye weed (eupatorium).
Common butterflies in Illinois:
- Great Spangled Fritillary - the young eat violets.
- Red Admiral - often the first butterflies of the season. Males are territorial and very aggressive.
- Comma - early butterfly. The butterflies prefer rotten fruit and tree sap for food.
- Orange Sulfur - males are often found in large groups. Caterpillars eat legumes.
- Red Spotted Purple - The butterflies prefer rotten fruit.
- Snout Butterfly
- Painted Lady - has a greater world distribution than any other butterfly. Migrates great distances.
- Buckeye - migrates. Caterpillars like snapdragons.
- Northern Pearly-eye. Found primarily in the shade. The butterfly refers rotten fruit, animal dung, tree sap.
- Butterfly World - Coconut Creek, FLA
- Callaway Gardens - Pine Mountain, GA
- Cockrell Butterfly Center - Houston, TX
- Sophia Sachs Butterfly House -Chesterfield, Missouri
- Peck Farm - Geneva, IL
Good reference books:
- Butterfly Book - Donald and Lilian Stokes and Ernest Williams
- Butterfly Gardening by the Xerces Society
- Garden Butterflies of North America - Rick Mikula
- Field Guide to the Butterflies of IL - Bouseman and Sternburg
- Field Guide to the Silkmoths of IL - Bouseman and Sternburg
- The Family Butterfly Book - Rick Mikula
(available at the Naperville Public Library)