Want to help butterflies? Think beyond providing flowers for nectar in the height of summer.
Many butterfly species we see in Canada don't migrate. You can provide habitat and food for their entire lifecycle — eggs, larvae, pupae AND adults — throughout the year. You'll need:
Host plants: Adults need a place to lay eggs where their caterpillars will forage. (Plant species that will get eaten and not just look pretty!)
Mud puddles: Some butterflies rarely visit flowers. They prefer mud, poop (a.k.a. "scat" or "dung"), sap and rotting fruit.
Blooms from spring through fall: Don't limit your garden to an end-of-July colour extravaganza. You'll need a diversity of native nectar plants to flower over a few months.
Overwintering habitat: Consider not raking leaves to provide a butterfly nursery! Most butterflies in Canada overwinter as caterpillars, others as pupae. A few species winter as adults, hibernating in hollow trees, under bark and firewood piles, or in garden shed cracks and crevices. Few spend winter as eggs.
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Sunshine: Make sure you (or your neighbours) have sunny spots.
Nectar plants: Most butterflies will feed from more than a few plant species.
Think about the role of your yard: Is it a habitat source (high quality patch that supports population increases)? Or is it more of an island? Some yards can provide for one butterfly species' entire life cycle. Some are disconnected from other habitat patches. Walk around the block and view your neighbourhood through a butterfly's eyes. Chat with your neighbours and see what they're planting. Note possible connecting corridors between butterfly-friendly patches. Can schoolyards, boulevards and local green spaces where you live help support butterflies?
Get to know native butterfly species: Not every person in Canada can create monarch butterfly habitat (e.g., they aren't native to Vancouver Island).
What will you do this season to help butterflies?
Lindsay Coulter, a fellow Queen of Green