Butterflies are some of the most beautiful and graceful of all pollinators. Through providing safe habitats we can also support the roles that butterflies play in pollination. Butterflies need flowers in full sun that are protected from wind, preferably away from roadways.
About 75% of all flowering plants rely on animal pollinators and over 200,000 species of animals act as pollinators. Of those, about 1,000 are hummingbirds, bats, and small mammals. The rest are insects such as beetles, bees, ants, wasps, butterflies, and moths. And, worldwide, approximately 1,000 plants grown for food, beverages, fibers, spices, and medicines need to be pollinated by animals in order to produce the goods on which we depend.
In the garden, keep in mind that some of the plants we plant will be eaten by butterfly caterpillars. I’ve always found that a plant eaten by them was a delight, taking the attitude of “if you build it, they will come” scenario rather than one of destruction. Because of this I plant extra, so ‘I’ can have a lush garden and so the ‘butterflies’ have more than enough to eat. Read Fast Facts for Gardeners: why pollinators are important.
It’s at the caterpillar stage of a butterflies lifecycle that it’s important to have a good field guide handy to identify them properly. Many a day in the garden I witnessed plump caterpillars eating my plants, many a future-butterfly were spared because of my field guide. One such lucky fella was the subject of the photo’s in this article. What a treat it was to go outside and watch the changes occur, which happen rather quickly (I think) considering all that’s going on.
“Adding native plantings in Riparian Areas to improve pollinator habitat makes sense in advancing our family farm’s conservation and economical objectives, enhancing beneficial wildlife and improving pollination in our orchard and garden.” ~ Lee McDaniel, Farmer and President, National Association of Conservation Districts
In their 1996 book, the Forgotten Pollinators, Buchmann and Nabhan estimated that animal pollinators are needed for the reproduction of 90% of flowering plants and one third of human food crops. Each of us depends on these industrious pollinators in a practical way to provide us with the wide range of foods we eat. In addition, pollinators are part of the intricate web that supports the biological diversity in natural ecosystems that helps sustain our quality of life.
Gardeners have been attracting butterflies to their gardens for some time. These insects tend to be eye- catching, as are the flowers that attract them. Position flowering plants where they have full sun and are protected from the wind. Also, you will need to provide open areas (e.g. bare earth, large stones) where butterflies may bask, and moist soil from which they may get needed minerals. By providing a safe place to eat and nest, gardeners can also support the pollination role that butterflies play in the landscape. It might mean accepting slight damage to the plants, known as host plants, that provide food for the larval stage of the butterfly.
A diverse group of butterflies are present in garden areas and woodland edges that provide bright flowers, water sources, and specific host plants. Numerous trees, shrubs, and herbaceous plants support butterfly populations.
A terrific resource for learning more about which plants to consider in the garden is found at Pollinator Partnership, they have compiled free guides (PDF’s) that are quite useful, Pollinator Friendly Planting Guides (24 pages).
Moths and Butterflies as Pollinators
Butterflies, possibly the best loved of all insects, are appreciated as benign creatures that add color, beauty, and grace to our gardens. Moths, on the other hand, aren’t nearly as appreciated for their pollinating contributions. Butterflies and moths belong to the same insect order, Lepidoptera.
Can you tell the difference between a moth and a butterfly? Continue reading “Pollinators in Our Gardens: Butterflies and Moths” »
Native Plant Landscaper, Gardener, Labyrinth Design, Feng Shui Practitioner, Aromatherapy / Essential Oils, Big Fan of Nature and Living Simply.
"There is nothing in a caterpillar that tells you it's going to be a butterfly."
~ R. Buckminster Fuller