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The Pine Bush Project:
Butterfly Gardening

By Christine, student at FMS

In creating a Butterfly Garden, it is essential that the needs of a butterfly are met. Attributes such as light, shelter, water and food all need to be considered when constructing your garden:

Shelter
It is very crucial that plenty of shelter is provided for the butterflies. Butterflies need shelter for various reasons. One is that when they face the wind, their body temperature drops. When this occurs butterflies can’t take advantage of their full flight ability. Also, it is proven that butterflies thrive better in a sheltered area than in an open area. Lastly, butterflies need not struggle in flight if the area is protected from the harsh weather and wind.

Solution:
Shelter can be easily provided for butterflies. Things that you already have set up in your yard, such as shrubs, trees, fences, or walls, are efficient in providing shelter. Alternatively, plant fruit trees such as cherry, plum, pear, chestnut, or any other trees that supply nectar as well as shelter. Keep in mind that the positioning of the shelter is very vital. It needs to be positioned so as not to block out too much sunlight. During the winter, shelter can be provided in the forms of log piles or piles of leaf litter.

Sunlight
Sunlight is very crucial for butterflies. For this reason, butterflies typically aren’t seen on cloudy days and in the morning. Butterflies are unable to take advantage of their full flight abilities without heat from the sun. When maximum amount of sunlight is available, it gives them more time to mate and for the females to lay eggs. Also, butterflies can begin feeding and flying earlier with more heat. Studies have proved that providing butterflies the maximum amount of sunlight has increased growth rates.

Solution:
To give the butterflies the utmost amount of sunshine, provide ample open space in the garden, preferably in the center. It is important that butterflies are given adequate room to fly and catch the sun. Also, it is important to locate nectar flowers in areas where butterflies can get an abundant amount of sun. Another option is to put rocks throughout the garden to give them areas in which they can bask while absorbing the warmth from rocks.

Water and Nutrients
A necessary aspect of a butterfly’s life is what is known as “puddling.” This is when butterflies gravitate to areas where moisture has soaked into soil or sand, leaving mud or a damp area. About two dozen butterflies may gather in this type of area. Mostly males gather, for they need minerals, such as salt, that puddling provides.

Solution:
Fill an old pan with sand and leave it in your garden. If it dries out just add some more water. Another way of providing nutrients for the butterflies would be to set up salt licks throughout the garden. In addition, an important asset to a butterfly garden is to install streams or ponds, which would provide water as well as nutrients. Lastly, allow damp areas to form all through the garden, adding salt water from time to time.

Setting up a Garden
When actually planning the set-up of a butterfly garden, most people will only think about the plants. The kinds of plants and how they’re set up will determine the success of the garden. Flowers blooming in large numbers and large areas typically attract butterflies. The more area that is covered and the more flowers blooming, the more the quantity of butterflies will increase. To maximize the population, you must also take into consideration growing plants that are food for the butterflies’ caterpillars.

Solution:
When planting flowers make sure to check that they have a blooming season from early spring to late fall. Plant a good mixture of annuals, which bloom through summer. Also, plant perennials, which bloom more restrictedly but reappear each year. Butterfly bush and weeds are both excellent food for butterflies. Check the list of larval foods in the guide. Plant some larval food in or near your garden.

 

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