I’ve been receiving some inquiries about host plants for butterfly gardens since Saturday’s article, so thought I’d post some more information on this.
When I planned my first butterfly garden, I did the research and chose native plants that would be good sources of nectar. But, my initial research didn’t inform me that I also needed to plant host plants. I discovered the need for hosts one day picking herbs.
My butterfly garden happened to be located very near my herb patch, and I was surprised one day to find my parsley chewed up and the plants covered with caterpillars. Although I didn’t know what kind of butterflies these caterpillars were going to grow into, I did recognize that they probably were butterflies-in-the-making. So, reasoning that the grocery store carries parsley but doesn’t carry butterflies, I was happy to sacrifice my parsley to the caterpillars, and motivated to do a little more research.
I discovered that the caterpillars were going to become swallowtails, and that I had inadvertently provided a host food for my visiting butterflies. And, that not having host plants would have cost me visits from future butterflies.
If you really want to attract butterflies, you need to provide food for more than just the adults. This is an area that many people overlook when planting a butterfly garden. The plants serve as places for butterflies to lay eggs and as a food source for caterpillars after they emerge. So, if you have a butterfly garden, and you’re not attracting many butterflies, consider planting some host plants.
Different species of caterpillars prefer different plants, so, if you want to attract a particular variety of butterfly, research what plants the caterpillars prefer for feeding and egg laying and plant that host.