Martin Dies, Jr. State Park

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Butterflies Have Lots to Teach

November 2019

By Ranger Amy

tattered butterfly hanging from a branch“Oh my gosh!! I can’t believe that happened right in front of my eyes!!” A boy exclaimed as a fritillary butterfly laid an egg on a leaf. Outside the park’s nature center is a certified Monarch Waystation. Monarch Waystations are gardens that have nectar sources for hungry pollinators and host plants for butterflies.  

Butterflies are great mascots for conservation. They face challenges in habitat destruction and pesticides, and are misunderstood. Many people think that caterpillars are pests, but they’re not. Caterpillars are a chink in the chain of a butterfly (or moth’s) life cycle.

Anyone can contribute to helping butterflies. By helping this one insect you’ll find a true butterfly effect. Many species that rely on butterfly habitat will benefit.  

Attracting butterflies . . .

If attracting lots of butterflies to your garden is something you’d like to do, it can be easy!

cocoon hanging from the limb of a bushI love gardening but cannot contribute large amounts of time or money to my gardens. I’m a lazy gardener, but my butterfly gardens are beautiful and only need minimal work.

The key to success is planting native plants. Don’t waste your time, money or energy, buying non-natives. They are not adapted to living with our native insects or diseases, and often need more water than what falls from the sky.

If you want butterflies right away get a couple of passion vines. These to attract Gulf fritillary butterflies (and caterpillars). Then put in some nectar plants such as lantanas, coneflowers, and purple mist flowers.

To attract yellow sulphur butterflies, add partridge peas. For swallowtail butterflies plant Queen Anne’s lace, though their caterpillars will also eat fennel, dill and parsley. To help the migrating Monarch butterfly add a few native milkweeds. You can find many of these plants and seeds online.  

. . . and enjoying butterflies

Watching butterflies flutter around is a relaxing and joyous experience. These beauties have lots to teach. They teach us about conservation, relaxation, that it’s okay to stop and smell “the roses,” and to enjoy each phase of our lives.