FOOD PLANTS FOR BUTTERFLIES


Butterfly populations have been in decline for decades now, mostly due to the destruction of their habitat. This has been brought about by changes in farming practices, increased usage of pesticides  and a preference for gardeners to grow fancy plant cultivars with low nectar yields and often poor accessibility to the nectar itself.

To survive butterflies need good access to food sources throughout their life cycle and there is plenty that even the most inexperienced gardener can do to help and it is all about planting the right plants. Also be aware that in season with low rainfall you will need to water nectar producing plants otherwise the nectar will effective 'dry out'.

So to maintain a rich and available source of nectar throughout the year for our native butterflies there are some plants that you just can't be without. Planting the late flowering Buddleia is a popular choice allowing butterflies access to energy rich nectar before their long hibernation. Likewise, Arabis, Aubrieta, wallflowers and Polyanthus will all provide an early meal after they've awaken.

This constant supply of nectar is imperative to reduce the decline of native butterfly populations, and so its important to try and provide a range of plants that will have at least some viable nectar producing flowers throughout the year. Look at planting a selection of these naturally strong floriferous plants such as Sedum spectabile - not the fancy cultivars, Honeysuckle, alyssum, Asters, Phlox, Rosemary, Hyssop, Lavender – especially Munstead, French marigolds , Hebe – particularly Great Orme and Mid-summer Beauty, Verbena bonariensis, Heliotrope, Echeveria (ice plant), Bergamot, and Marjoram.

If they are available, try to plant native flowers that are common to your particular area. Getting in contact with your local conservation society can often bring about great advice, making the most of what your garden can do for your local butterfly populations. If this information isn't available to you then try planting the following varieties. Bird's foot Trefoil, Coltsfoot, Figwort, Lady's Bedstraw, Lesser Knapweed, Oxeye Daisy, Small Scabious, Sorrel, and Wild Clary.
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By maximising your gardens nectar yield our butterflies will have a much better chance of survival - not just for this year but for many years to come. But the effect doesn't just stop there. There are plenty of other nectar loving, pollinating insects which are just as much at risk from loss of habitat as their beautifully coloured cousins. Unfortunately, because they are not considered to be as pretty they often get overlooked, but when you read about population decline in their predators such as bats and insect eating birds it is easy to see that there are serious problems here too.
flower and vegetable images for seed shop
Click onto the above image for the 'Seeds of Eaden' seed shop
Main image - Piccolo Namek licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

For related articles click onto the following links:
FOOD PLANTS FOR CATERPILLARS
HOW TO GROW BUDDLEIA DAVIDII
HOW TO GROW VERBENA BONARIENSIS FROM SEED
HOW TO MAKE A BUTTERFLY GARDEN
Natural History Butterflies
THE DECLINE OF BUTTERFLY AND CATERPILLAR HABITAT
THE PAINTED LADY BUTTERFLY
THE SWALLOWTAIL BUTTERFLY
THE WORLD'S LARGEST BUTTERFLY - Ornithoptera alexandrae
VERBENA BONARIENSIS
WHEN AND HOW TO PRUNE BACK BUDDLEIA
WHEN AND HOW TO PRUNE HEBES

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