Butterfly Garden Appeal for Home Gardening
Butterflies are one of the few popular species of insects in the world. Unlike potentially-hostile bees and wasps, these flying insects are as docile as they are beautiful. The popularity of butterflies comes from the elaborate and complex decorations on their wings, some of which are so colorful and beautiful that they seem like living works of art.
Butterflies are popular to have around the garden. Not only are they fun and enjoyable to watch, but they’re also beneficial to your garden plants. A butterfly will track pollen from flower to flower, helping the host plant to propagate. It is this reason that a population of butterflies is often sought after in gardens both large and small. A butterfly garden itself can be immensely appealing.
The Life Cycle of Butterflies
Butterflies are interesting in that they, like related moths, have a very unusual life cycle. They hatch from eggs as caterpillars to begin the first stage of their lives. A caterpillar is basically a long, multi-legged mouth that devours plant matter to store up energy. Caterpillars can be pests in farms, orchards and forests due to the voracity of their appetites.
Once the caterpillar has stored up enough energy it finds somewhere safe and spins a silk cocoon around itself. During this stage it is known as a pupa or chrysalis, and is typically incapable of movement. Some pupae are capable of producing vibrations or sounds to scare off predators, but are usually otherwise vulnerable.
The pupae transform into a butterfly through metamorphosis. To transform from the miniature wings visible on the outside of the pupa into large structures usable for flight, the wings undergo rapid mitosis and absorb a great deal of nutrients. If one wing is surgically removed early on, the other three will grow to a larger size.
In the pupa, the wing forms a structure that becomes compressed from top to bottom and pleated from proximal to distal ends as it grows, so that it can rapidly be unfolded to its full adult size. It is these adult forms, also known as the imago, which are the popular insects we know and love. A newly-emerged butterfly needs to spend some time inflating its wings with blood and letting them dry, during which time it is extremely vulnerable to predators.
Growing a Butterfly Garden
When planning your butterfly garden, it is a good idea to find out which species are resident in your area as well as the plants on which they are found. It is also important to provide plants on which the butterflies will lay their eggs and upon which caterpillars can feed. These sacrificial plants should help to distract caterpillars from more rare or expensive flowers living in your butterfly garden.
A butterfly garden can be either a large plot of land or something as small as a single flower bed or even a planter. The size should be determined by space availability in your yard as well as by how many resources you have available to allocate towards planting and maintaining the butterfly garden itself.
One of the most important factors about growing a butterfly garden is the provide shelter from the wind so that butterflies can hover and rest to feed without being blown into the air. A hedge, fence, or nearby tree can act as windbreaks. You can also plant large flowering shrubs that will not only shelter the area, but provide additional food sources for your butterfly garden.
Flowers themselves are the primary source of food in your butterfly garden. Planting bright, attractive species known for producing a great deal of nectar will attract butterflies, especially if the plant species are native to your specific area. Native plants are ones that butterflies tend to be familiar with, meaning that the chance of attracting them will be much higher.
In addition to food, your butterfly garden needs a source of water. Butterflies can’t drink directly from open source of water, meaning you need to create puddles of moist sand or mud. Provide sticks or rocks for the butterflies to perch on while they drink. The presence of rocks in your butterfly garden also presents basking opportunities for the butterflies, which will sit to absorb heat and energy from the sun.
Additional Tips and Information for Growing a Butterfly Garden
Now that you know the basics about growing a butterfly garden, it can be interesting to consider additional ideas for developing your yard. Adding a fountain or small waterfall to your yard can create a perfect combination for relaxing ambiance. If you include a pond, avoid populating it with large species of fish, as they may devour the residents of your butterfly garden as they fly overhead!
Successfully creating and maintaining a butterfly garden provides a place for your entire family to sit and relax, enjoying the sights of butterflies as they flit about from plant to plant.
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