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Benefits of Butterflies

Butterflies are among the most common insects to frequent gardens.

Adding an ornamental touch, a yard full of butterflies can only be good. As sensitive indicators, the very presence of butterflies may be enough to detect the health and vitality of the surrounding area. However, they are more than a by-product of healthy landscapes. Butterflies in themselves can prove essential to the overall health of plant life.

Like bees and flies, butterflies are excellent pollinators, fertilizing trees, flowers, and shrubbery. The pollination of a plant is necessary for it to reproduce, contributing to the production of flowers and berries. This is an important process, required by all plants with the exception of grass, wheat, and corn.

Butterflies also play an important role in the food-chain that envelopes your home. Some birds live solely on the nutrients from insects, primarily moths, caterpillars, and butterflies. Such birds, like Warblers, are beneficial to gardens and will not be content with bird-feed. These birds are also at risk of endangerment, so it is important for them to have available resources on a constant basis. Just by attracting butterflies, you help these birds to sustain life and encourage the creation of an eco-system within your garden, keeping itself balanced as it spins a web of diversity.

To ensure a steady traffic of fluttering gems around your home, there are a few things to consider. First of all, it is best to fill your garden with native plants. Many regions have lost their natural habitats due to land clearing, this is a result of agriculteral land use as well as the construction of roadways and buildings. Growing plants native to your region not only preserves local plant species but restores the region’s  natural habitat, creating a sanctuary for local fauna.  You should also avoid using any pesticides in your garden. If you wish to repel pests, plant a natural repellent, like rosemary, instead. Pesticides don’t just threaten the lives of butterflies, they are dangerous to other creatures and humans as well.

In addition, butterflies avoid agricultural land because it lacks plant diversity, as fields may be dedicated to one type of crop, leaving butterflies nowhere to feed or lay eggs. This is why gardens should have an abundance of nectar producing flowers to provide them with plenty of nutrients. For best results, plant younger plants in the spring and mature plants in the fall. Be sure your plants have full sun exposure, as flowers need sunlight to produce their own food.

Finally, when choosing plants go for flowers with bold colors. Butterflies see more colors than humans do and prefer bright, varied palettes to perch upon. They seem particularly keen to orange, red, yellow, purple, and dark pink. Colors aside, you’ll find certain types of butterflies favor different flowers than others. Monarchs, for example, take a liking to Milkweed, while Fennel attracts Black Swallowtails.

To best accommodate local butterflies, do some research on those native to your region and plant accordingly.

All information beyond my finite grasp of these lovely creatures has been provided by Chris Hartley, the Coordinator of Education at The Sophia M. Sachs Butterfly House in Chesterfield, Missouri. Thank you, Chris!

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