Butterfly Gardening
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Butterfly Gardening. Written and Presented by: Cathy LeVahn Anoka County Master Gardener, Minnesota Tree Care Advisor. Butterfly Gardening. Introduction Behaviors to Watch Creating a Butterfly Garden. Introduction. Wildlife habitat is being destroyed Commercial development

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Butterfly Gardening

Written and Presented by: Cathy LeVahn

Anoka County Master Gardener, Minnesota Tree Care Advisor



Behaviors to Watch

Creating a Butterfly Garden


  • Wildlife habitat is being destroyed

    • Commercial development

    • Residential development

  • Butterfly gardening encourages habitat restoration



Minnesota – 200 species

Adult lifespan – 2 weeks

Several generations each season

Some hibernate, others migrate

Butterfly Gardening Can Be Easy!

  • Provides host plant for larval growth and adult feeding

  • Uses native and horticultural cultivars of annuals and perennials

    • Sip nectar

    • Lay eggs

    • Source of food


Encourages the establishment of butterfly populations

Butterflies return year after year

Environmental stewardship

Personal enjoyment!

Butterfly or Moth?

  • The insect order Lepidoptera consists of butterflies and moths

    • Butterflies – 8% of species

    • Moths – 92% of species

Butterfly or Moth?

Peacock Butterfly photograph by Leon Truscott

  • Butterflies are brightly colored

    • Advertises distastefulness to predators

    • Females look for noxious host plants to lay their eggs

    • Distasteful to birds

Butterfly or Moth?

US Forest Service

Moths are dully colored

Lack functional mouth parts

Highly palatable to


Most are active

after dusk

Key Distinctions

Key Distinctions

Key Distinctions

Key Distinctions

Black Swallowtail


Spicebush Swallowtail


Checkered White


Small Copper


Variegated Fritillary


Great Spangled Fritillary


American Copper


American Painted Lady

New Mexico State University


Texas Parks and Wildlife

Checkered Skipper


Red Admiral

Discover butterflies.com

Behaviors to Watch

  • Feeding

    • Use flower nector as primary food source

    • Required for energy/flight


Behaviors to Watch

  • Feeding

    • Some suggested nectar plants for adult butterflies :

Blueberries (Vaccinium)


Butterfly Bush (Buddleia)

Photographer: Marie

Lilac (Syringa)


Coneflowers (Echinacea)

Impatiens (Impatiens)

M. Myers

Marigolds (Tagetes)

Gardening Paradise

Phlox (Paniculata)


Sunflower (Helianthus)

[email protected]

Aster (Aster)

Ark Master Gardeners

Bee Balm (Monarda)

Photograph by G. Fauske

Sedum (Sedum)


Behaviors to Watch

  • Basking

    • Butterflies are cold-blooded

    • They fly best when air temperatures range from 75-90º

    • Basks in sun to warm up


Behaviors to Watch

  • Puddling

    • Congregate at wet edge of mud puddles or wet sandy areas

    • Fluids rich in salts and nutrients

    • Required to mate successfully


Behaviors to Watch

  • Patrolling and Perching

    • Males search out females for mating

    • Fly over areas where females are laying eggs

    • Perch on tall plants for lookout

Photo by Alice Russell

Behaviors to Watch

  • Mating

    • Flight patterns differ in courtship

    • Males fly behind female

    • Flutter wings more than usual


Behaviors to Watch

  • Egg Laying

    • Female flying over plants

    • Touches down quickly

    • May drum on leaf surface with feet


Creating a Butterfly Garden

  • Host Plants

    • Group flowers of similar color together

    • Select nectar producing plants

    • Provide flowers that bloom throughout season

    • More active mid to late summer

Cathy LeVahn

Creating a Butterfly Garden

  • Host Plants (continued)

    • Supplement with home-made feeders

    • Must provide for caterpillars

      • Milkweed

      • Butterfly weed

      • Dill

      • Parsley

      • Nettles

USDA Forest Service

Creating a Butterfly Garden

  • Habitat

    • Shelter (protection)

      • Lay eggs

      • Predators

      • Wind

    • Don’t plant near birdhouses or feeders

Creating a Butterfly Garden

  • Habitat

    • Water Source

      • Wet Sand

      • Mud Puddle



Creating a Butterfly Garden

  • Eliminate the use of pesticides

    • Kills larvae and butterflies

    • Kills beneficial insects

    • Kills birds

  • Use oils, soaps and microbial insecticides only if necessary


References: Butterfly Gardening

Vera Krischikis an assistant professor, Department of Entomology and an extension specialist, Minnesota Extension Service. She is also the director of the Center for Urban Ecology and Sustainability, University of Minnesota

National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Butterflies, Pyle

Cathy LeVahn

Cathy LeVahn

References - Links

Butterfly Gardening; Krischik, Vera


Tall Garden Phlox for Minnesota Gardens; Brown, Deb


Sunflowers; MacKenzie, Jill


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