Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Host Plants for Butterflies by Joyce D'Agostino

Painted Lady

We are all aware of the need to support pollinators in our gardens and this includes butterflies. Butterflies are part of the ecosystem of beneficial insects that helps promote a healthy and balanced environment. Providing the necessary food, shelter and water for these insects helps attract more into your yard.
Often butterfly gardens focus on growing the plants that provide nectar for butterflies. While these plants are important food sources, it is essential that host plants are also included. A host plant is one that will allow the mature adult to lay eggs which emerge into caterpillars. These caterpillars use the host plants for food and shelter as they develop. 
Many host plants are native plants but some are readily found in garden centers as transplants or easy to grow from seed. For example, black swallowtail butterflies will use common kitchen herbs such as parsley, dill and fennel as hosts for their caterpillars. 
Providing both the host and nectar plants that are available in succession over the season will help bring more butterflies (and other pollinators) into your yard and garden.  Recording which butterflies visit your garden will also help you know the host and nectar plants that each need. 
The fact sheet and link below provide an excellent chart and detailed information to help you know what to plant to attract butterflies and support them all summer.