Butterflies bring movement and beauty to any outdoor space. However, they’re more beneficial than what meets the eye. These jeweled insects act as pollinators, natural pest control, and are indicators of a healthy environment. As the climate becomes hotter and drier, the number of butterflies is rapidly declining. Read on to learn how to attract butterflies to your backyard to get involved in protecting and conserving this species of insect.

Add a Butterfly Shelter to Your Lawn

When butterflies visit your lawn, they search for a sanctuary to feel safe and protected. It’s ideal to have an area in your yard that’s sheltered from strong winds and rain and another that collects ample sunlight.

A mixture of trees and shrubs can provide necessary protection for butterflies from strong winds and rain. In the summer months, they hang from trees and roost to cool themselves.

As cold-blooded insects, butterflies cannot regulate their body temperature as we can. In the early mornings, they like to spread their wings and bask in the sun to collect heat. Placing rocks, decorative if you prefer, in sunny areas will give butterflies a place to warm up on cool mornings.

Butterflies enjoy small nooks where they can hide from predators and stay warm during winter. Research shows butterflies are attracted to natural environment shelters such as hollow logs, cracks in stone, loose bark, or a stack of firewood.

Add Native Plants to Your Landscaping

Due to the process of metamorphosis, butterflies require host plants and flowering plants. After the eggs hatch into larvae, host plants provide food for caterpillars to grow before entering the pupa stage. After emerging from chrysalises, adult butterflies drink nectar nutrition from flowering plants.

Along with food for the caterpillars, host plants provide a place for adult female butterflies to lay eggs and therefore offer a reason for adult butterflies to stay and reproduce. By providing host plants and nectar-rich plants that have early, mid, and late blooming seasons, you can watch this entire cycle unfold in your own yard.

Caterpillars are much pickier than adult butterflies, so different types of caterpillars prefer different host plants. Only a few species share the same host plant.

Here are a few examples of host plants and the caterpillars they attract:

  • Black Cherry - Red-spotted Purple, Eastern Tiger Swallowtail
  • Common Partridge Pea - Sleepy Orange, Cloudless Sulphur, Little Yellow, Gray Hairstreak
  • Dill - Black Swallowtail
  • Flowering Dogwood - Spring Azure, Summer Azure
  • Milkweed - Monarch (State Insect of Alabama)
  • Purple or Yellow Passionflower - Gulf Fritillary, Variegated Fritillary, Zebra Longwing

When it comes to nectar plants, most native plants appeal to many different adult butterfly species. Keep in mind that composite flower plants provide butterflies with more options. A big flower contains about the same nectar content as each floret on a composite plant!

Most of your butterfly-attractant perennials and annuals will have the best results in full sun to partial shade. Limit the use of pesticides, insecticides, and herbicides to keep butterflies healthy. With a diversity of plant material, you're not likely to attract many plant pests anyway.

It’s also important to note that some of the most popular butterfly plants have harmful effects on our ecosystem as a whole, including the Butterfly Bush, Lantana, and Tropical Milkweed. Choosing native plants for the landscape ensures the most sustainable habitat for wildlife.

Attract Butterflies With Fruit

Not all adult butterflies eat flowers. Leaving out overripe fruit you already have around the house can attract more butterfly families to your backyard. Chop up any common fruit of the area (apples, pears, peaches, bananas, pineapple, watermelon, etc.) and either put them on a pan in the shade - away from door entrances - or throw them under a tree and let them ferment there. This provides a great habitat for them to feed and natural sap may flow onto it from trees and plants for extra nutrients for the butterflies.

Add a Water Source to Your Yard

Butterflies can be found sipping moisture from puddles or wet soil after rainfall to get hydrated and pick up essential nutrients from salts, a process known as puddling. You can create a small puddle or pond for butterflies to assemble in a few easy steps. First, find a wide, shallow container to hold water – clay material, a plastic saucer, or a birdbath will work. Fill it up with rocks, sand, and water. You can add a bit of compost, salt, or fermented fruit to provide extra minerals.

How We Can Help

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