Learn to attract butterflies to your garden
Host plants are the plants on which the female butterflies lay
their eggs, and no good butterfly garden is complete without them, says Janis Miller,
horticulturist at Virginia Living Museum in Newport News.
"Once the eggs hatch, the young butterfly larva usually called a
caterpillar needs to eat," she says. "Unlike their parents, caterpillars
eat leaves and can eat quite a lot before they are ready to transform into butterflies. So
you can expect your host plants to look very ragged by late summer."
Many butterflies are very specific about their host plants and will not lay eggs in
your garden if you dont have the plants they need. Here are some of the host plants
for some common butterflies:
Monarch milkweed, climbing milkweed
Black Swallowtail parsley, dill, fennel, Queen Annes lace
Zebra Swallowtail pawpaw
Spicebush Swallowtail spicebush, sassafras
Tiger Swallowtail wild cherry, birch, tulip poplar, ash, sweetbay
Great Spangled Fritillary violets
Pearl Crescent asters
Buckeye plantain, snapdragon
Red Admiral nettles
Mourning Cloak willow, elm, birch, hackberry
Red-Spotted Purple willow, poplar
Painted Lady thistle, sunflower, hollyhock, common mallow
NECTAR NEEDED, TOO
A good butterfly garden needs a variety of nectar plants that will produce continuous
blooms throughout the season, including both tall and short species and large and small
flowers, Janis says.
Adult butterflies predominantly feed on nectar although some species do feed on
fruit juices, tree sap or even animal dung.
Some good native nectar plants include:
Milkweed, Butterfly Weed (Asclepias species)
Aster (Aster species)
Mistflower (Conoclinium coelestinum)
Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)
Joe-Pye Weed (Eupatoriadelphus species)
Sunflower (Helianthus species)
Black Swallowtail caterpillar
Blazingstar (Liatris species)
Black-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta, R. fulgida, R. triloba)
Green Coneflower (Rudbeckia laciniata)
Rosinweed, Cup Plant (Silphium species)
Goldenrod (Solidago species)
Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis)
Downy Lobelia (Lobelia puberula)
Blue Lobelia (Lobelia siphilitica)
Bee Balm (Monarda didyma)
Wild Bergamot (Monarda fistulosa)
Beardtongue (Penstemon species)
Spiderwort (Tradescantia virginiana)
Rose Verbena (Verbena canadensis)
Ironweed (Vernonia species)
New Jersey Tea (Ceanothus americanus)
Buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis)
Arrowwood, Possum Haw, Black Haw (Viburnum species)
Sweet Pepperbush or Summersweet (Clethra alnifolia)
Growing a butterfly garden? Dont pick up that insect
spray, says Christine Lewis, director of education at Virginia Living Museum, Newport
"Butterflies are insects, so the same chemicals
designed to rid your garden of aphids and ants will also kill butterflies and their
There are safe ways to control pests without jeopardizing
your butterflies. A strong spray of water from the hose will knock off unwanted buggy
visitors like aphids and spider mites. Put on a pair of garden gloves and pick off the
If you seem to be losing the battle against insect pests
and cant seem to control them any other way, use a mild insecticide like a
soap spray that breaks down quickly in the environment. Apply it on a calm day so
the mist doesnt drift, and spray only the pests, not all the plants in your garden.
Be careful to avoid spraying caterpillars, butterflies and moths.
Remember, too, you need host plants for caterpillars to eat
so they can become butterflies. Those green-black striped, yellow-dotted caterpillars on
your parsley soon become gorgeous black swallowtail butterflies.
When your yard is full of beautiful butterflies this summer
youll agree that a few chewed leaves are a small price to pay.
Photos: David Liebman of Norfolk
Now- Oct. 7 Butterflies, Bugs n Blooms real
butterflies and blooming plants returns for a second year at the Virginia Living
Museum, 524 J. Clyde Morris Blvd., Newport News. Volunteers help visitors identify local
insects and butterflies and share tips on creating a backyard haven for wildlife of all
Now- Oct. 7 Pollination Station. Watch live chrysalides
emerge into butterflies. Enjoy interactive exhibits about pollinators. Younger visitors
can act out the stages of pollination with puppets.
Both included in regular VLM admission: $7 adult, $5 child
(3-12). Call 757-595-1900; visit www.valivingmuseum.org.
Butterfly Festival: Caterpillars Are Cool, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
Aug. 4, sponsored by Butterfly Society of Virginia at Norfolk Botanical Garden; $1
admission to festival/gardens. Tours, plants, accessories; 499-6789 or 625-7143.
Caterpillars are Cool 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Aug. 4
Butterfly Festival 2001, sponsored by Butterfly Society of Virginia at Norfolk Botanical
Garden. See the Bristow Butterfly Garden and adjacent Butterfly Maze and Four Seasons
Garden. Take guided walks, hear guest speakers, build butterfly cages and learn how to
turn your own yard into a butterfly magnet. Plant sale, vendors. Garden and festival
admission $1 with coupon from butterfly society. Call Ruth Burch at 499-6789 or Don Snipes
Shop for butterfly-attracting plants during the fall wildflower sale Sept. 22-23 at
Virginia Living Museum, 524 J. Clyde Morris Blvd., Newport News. Call 595-1900.
For information on how to raise monarchs, visit www.MonarchWatch.org,
an educational program. Also visit the North American Butterfly Association at www.naba.org.
Turn your home, school or workplace into a registered Backyard Wildlife Habitat for
butterflies, birds and other small animals. Visit www.nwf.org
or call (716) 461-3092; for general information, call (703) 438-6100. National Wildlife
Federation sponsors the program.