Q. What is the best way to attract butterflies?
A. Butterflies are easily attracted to backyards by planting a garden with a variety of plants and flowers that nourish both the caterpillar and the adult butterfly. Each butterfly species prefers specific food and host plants. Books about butterfly gardening will help you select the right plants for the species of butterflies you want to attract.
Q. What are the best nectar-producing flowers for attracting butterflies?
A. Among the best flowers are phlox, zinnias, asters, marigolds, sweet rocket, hyssop, Sweet William, coneflowers, black-eyed Susan, milkweeds, butterfly bush, larkspur, lavender, pink stonecrop, dandelions, thistles, mock orange, teasel, lantana, coreopsis, liatris, honeysuckle and morning glories. Consult with a local garden or nature center for the best plants in your area.
Q. What else can I do to attract butterflies?
A. Place large stones or flat rocks in sunny locations where butterflies can absorb heat for warming their bodies. Butterflies also appreciate a wet sandy area or muddy puddle to drink from.
Q. Do butterfly houses really work?
A. Only if you have a garden with the host and food plants for the species of butterflies that are known to use butterfly houses. These include the Compton Tortoiseshell, Gray Comma, Mourning Cloak, Red Admiral, Hoary Comma and Question Mark. It may take several years for butterflies to hibernate in a butterfly house. By placing slabs of tree bark vertically inside the house you are simulating the natural habitat that hibernating butterflies seek. Butterfly houses make attractive garden ornaments and conversation pieces and are also useful for reminding people about the need to protect butterflies.
Q. Can I feed butterflies?
A. Many butterflies will feed from a butterfly feeder with a sugar and water solution. To make homemade nectar, dissolve 2 teaspoons table sugar in one cup boiling water. Let cool. Butterflies also love spoiled fruit, especially watermelon, bananas, peaches and pears. Place your butterfly feeder in the middle of your garden close to the flowers. Feeders can help butterflies in your garden by supplementing their natural diet.
Q. When is the best time for finding and watching butterflies?
A. Spring, summer and fall depending on the species. Some butterflies live for 8 to 10 months and others live only for a few weeks. Week by week, different butterflies emerge and thrive on the variety of plants that bloom concurrently. If you are lucky, you may witness the incredible metamorphosis of a caterpillar into an adult butterfly.