Culture Magazine

Butterfly Gardens Help Declining Butterfly Populations

By Akemi Tatsakura

Southwest Michigan has some of the most beautiful butterflies. The monarch, various swallowtails, and the American lady are just a few. Unfortunately, butterflies like the monarch have had continent-wide declines in their populations. Michigan Audubon just finished planting over 900 milkweed seedlings near Jackson to help support monarchs that rely exclusively on milkweed for laying eggs and raising caterpillars. You can help by creating your own butterfly garden.

Nectar Plants

Butterflies feed on nectar plants. Having plants with flowers in mid to late summer support butterflies when they are most active. A few nectar plants are listed below.

  • Butterfly Bush
  • Common Milkweed
  • Heliotrope
  • Marigold
  • Oregano
  • Oriental Lilies
  • Petunia
  • Phlox
  • Purple Coneflower
  • Zinnia

Host Plants

Butterflies also need host plants to lay eggs and provide food for the caterpillar. Most caterpillars are particular about the type of plant they will eat. If eggs are not placed on the correct plant, the caterpillar may not survive. Plant the nectar and host plants near each other and do not use insecticides because it will kill them. A few host plants are listed below.

  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Carrot
  • Common Milkweed
  • Clovers
  • Dill
  • Hollyhock
  • Parsley
  • Snapdragons
  • Sunflowers
  • Sweet Fennel

By planting your own butterfly garden you help save these brightly colored insects while also providing a relaxing environment for butterfly watching.

Butterfly gardens help declining butterfly populations

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