More Butterflies?  Think Beyond Flowers

Planting for the butterflies is a popular gardening trend these days, but the focus is often limited to showy, flowering plants for the adults.  When planning a butterfly friendly landscape remember that these winged beauties spend part of their lives as not so beautiful caterpillars and these caterpillars have to have something to eat, too.  Most feed on the leaves of native plants and are quite particular as to which ones they will eat (not unlike some children you may know.)  We are well aware that Monarch caterpillars, for instance, rely upon milkweed (Asclepias), but many other species have a similarly limited food source.  Oak leaves must be tasty because they top the list, being a food source for over 500 species of butterflies and moths.  Most other native trees, including the popular red maples, are also important sources.  Non-natives, beautiful though they may be, not so much.  This goes for native vs. non-native shrubs and perennials as well.  So, if you want to plant for the butterflies remember to include some natives in your landscape.  Considering that caterpillars are a major food source for baby birds you’ll also be planting for the birds, and considering that many native trees, such as Tupelo and Tulip Poplar, are important pollen sources you’ll also be planting for the bees.  NCSU Extension has an excellent publication on butterflies and their food sources called, “Butterflies in Your Backyard,” which you can find on line. 

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