OLYA FESSARD MAR 2017
CREATE A GARDEN TO ATTRACT MONARCH BUTTERFLIES
Nothing brings a garden to life the way butterflies do! It is even more magical than dozens of colorful balloons dancing around in the sky. They are like having your flowers take to the air, says Georgia Department of Agriculture’s Arty Schronce. Getting more butterflies to visit and live in your garden is easy—you plant what they like. The most important plants are called larval host plants. They are the ones butterflies need to lay their eggs on and that the hatched caterpillars (larvae) need to eat. You see, most butterflies have very specific needs and will only lay eggs on one type or family of plants. So gather help for providing these plants through your children.
What child can resist the story of any very hungry caterpillar’s metamorphosis? Your child will be intrigued with how the caterpillar stuffs itself with leaves, growing plumper and longer through a series of molts in which it sheds its skin. Then one day, the caterpillar stops eating, hangs upside down from a twig or leaf, and spins itself into a silky cocoon or molt into a shiny chrysalis. The caterpillar incredibly transforms its body into a butterfly. The fact that the monarchs are endangered will just make the project even more interesting, because children have huge hearts and like to help fix a problem.
Monarchs are reported to lay their eggs only on milkweeds and related plants. However, I know for a fact that they will lay their eggs on parsley. Each year in my garden, their eggs morphs into larva, the beautiful black-, yellow-, and white-striped caterpillars. Those caterpillars strip the parsley plants they happen to be on—and by the end of the metamorphosis, they flit around the yard in their full Monarch glory.
Then simply the best way to both help monarchs and attract them to your own yard is to provide milkweed—that all-important host plant and food source for their caterpillars. There are many different types of milkweed plants, so be sure to check our sidebar on this page for those which are indigenous to Georgia before planting.
Be sure to have lots of nectar plants to feed a variety of adult butterflies (see list below). Now is the time to get these planted to have them ready for pollination.
Whether you are planting just for monarchs or a variety of butterflies, know that the best nectar plants have a large flower head or cluster of flowers that the butterfly can land on and hold to as it goes from individual flower to flower. A gust of wind could blow them off course, and it would take a lot of time and energy to get back to feeding, so they like to stay put and feed, so avoid planting nectar plants in a windy area of the garden.
Schronce wisely reminds us, “If you are going to have a butterfly garden, you must remember that every caterpillar is not your enemy. Learn to tolerate a few chewed leaves. Refrain from using insecticides or use them carefully. They won’t just kill insect pests; they kill the pretty butterflies you want to attract, too.” #
5 NECTAR PLANTS THAT MONARCHS LIKE
- Spider Milkweed (Asclepias viridis)
- Chives (Allium schoenoprasum)
- Siberian Wallflower (Erysimum x marshallii)
- May Night Salvia (Salvia x superba ‘Mainacht’)
- Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca)
Note: Avoid Asclepias curassavica, which harms Monarchs
Attract All Species of Butterflies
Here are some common butterflies of Georgia and some of the larval host plants they need:
Monarch – Asclepias tuberosa milkweeds, including butterflyweed and milkweed vines (Matelea). Avoid the tropical, year-round genus, Asclepias curassavica, which harms Monarchs.
Spicebush Swallowtail – spicebush, sassafras
Tiger Swallowtail – tulip poplar, green ash, white ash, sweet bay, wild cherry
Gulf Fritillary – mollypop or maypop, green passionflower or other passionflowers
Long-Tailed Skipper – members of the bean family
Silver-Spotted Skipper – black locust and other members of the bean family
Zebra Swallowtail – pawpaw
Pipevine Swallowtail – pipevine, snakeroot
Buckeye – broad-leaf plantain, ruellia, gerardia
Red-Spotted Purple – wild cherry
Snout – hackberry
Hackberry – hackberry, elms
Giant Swallowtail – Hercules club, citrus family
Black Swallowtail – carrot family, including dill, fennel, parsley, and Queen Anne’s lace
Painted Lady – thistle
Pearly Crescentspot – native asters
Mourning Cloak – willows, elms
Gray Hairstreak – beans, clover
Olive Hairstreak – red cedar
Henry’s Elfin – blueberry
Happy Planting! #