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To butterfly or not?

Posted: Tue Jul 12, 2011 6:02 am
by sarahp
I have just had my back yard landscaped, and had been planning on planting a butterfly garden. The idea of having the butterfly life cycle for my daughter and kitties to watch from the window appeals to me.

My daughter is 14 months old, and can finally play outside now that the (small townhouse) yard is redone, but I'm a little worried that anything that attracts butterflies (or hummingbirds) will also attract bees, which she is going to want to poke at, because that's just what she does :)

Are there butterfly attracting plants that aren't as attractive to bees? As much as I love bees, and would love to be able to help them out too, our back yard just isn't big enough for that.


Posted: Tue Jul 12, 2011 11:40 am
by applestar
I have to think about this a bit, but for starters, I could tell you that small/narrow tubular flowers that attract hummingbirds tend to be mainly visited by the more gentle bumblebees in my garden which is planted for butterflies and hummingbirds. They are likely visited by nectaring moths at night as well. The flowers I'm thinking about in particular are native coral/trumpet honeysuckle, Monarda, and runner beans.

The vining plants have the added benefit of easily being trained on a trellis around or near windows for close-up indoor viewing.

I don't know what butterflies are common to your area, but you could possibly plant mostly larval food plants rather than nectaring flowers. Carrot, Parsley, Dill, and Fennel for the Black Swallowtails, Milkweed for Monarch butterflies, etc. Flowers of these plants are tremendously popular with butterflies as well as bees and wasps, but you could cut off the flower buds before they bloom if you are truly concerned. Research other food plants for what would work for you.

The benefit of planting larval food sources is that the butterflies will come into your garden to seek them and lay eggs, and you will see freshly eclosed butterflies flying around in their crisp new colors. The more native food source plants you have, the more varieties of butterflies you will glimpse. I have spotted some unusual ones. On two occasions, they were not listed in the Butterfly and Moth database for my area and I reported them.

Planting the nectar sources at the far end of the garden, planting flowering trees, or hanging baskets, well above your baby's head might be other options.

Posted: Tue Jul 12, 2011 12:00 pm
by applestar
After posting the above, I went to my bedroom window overlooking the garden gate arbor of trumpet honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens 'Dropmore Scarlet') to see if any hummingbirds are visiting, and I immediately saw one taking a break on the topmost vine. As I watched, it took flight and started sipping from the flowers again. :()

FYI, I've stopped setting out hummer feeders because I can't keep up with (the simple task of) frequently replacing the nectar :oops: and the feeder is an yellow jacket mangnet, and, in any case, the hummingbirds visit regularly multiple times during the day to feed from all the flowering vines, shrubs, and plants in the garden. :wink:

Posted: Tue Jul 12, 2011 12:07 pm
by rainbowgardener
All wonderful advice from Applestar! I agree that the trumpet honeysuckle is the best hummingbird attractant in my garden and I haven't noticed bees coming to it. It is also attractive to butterflies and in the fall it makes berries that birds like. And it is non-aggressive and doesn't get so huge or take over your garden. All in all a great plant!

Posted: Tue Jul 12, 2011 12:19 pm
by hendi_alex
Plant the garden, and let her poke at the bees, if she chooses to after having been told that they sting! That is what I did as a child and what my children did. I remember the one time that my dad showed me how to capture a bumblebee by closing the flower around the bee who was busy at work. Later I tried the same thing. Wow, what an experience. The bee popped me on the thumb which proceeded to swell to double its normal size. Lesson learned! Bees are great, but don't grab them. If you touch them, do so very carefully. Until this day, I continue to 'pet' them on the little furry tufts of the back. Some allow such and some don't. It is a nice lesson to learn about stinging critters and to learn which ones are aggressive and which ones are not. Getting stung, IMO, is part of being a child and learning about nature. Seems I got stung dozens of times as a child. Of course a person should be mindful of severe immune reactions, and take necessary steps if an aggravated immune response takes place. Still, IMO, there is no valid reason to be overly protective about such things, except where sensitivity does show itself. Even then the child is better served having been stung and learning of the sensitivity at an early age. That is a much better option than having a near death experience as an adult who has no idea that he/she has a sensitivity. That happened to a friend of mine, at age 65 or so.

Of course this is my own opinion, and whatever you decide to do is your decision, independent of the opinion expressed above. This is my disclaimer. :lol:

Posted: Tue Jul 12, 2011 12:31 pm
by applestar
Alex... :roll: (Sorry, but that would not be my style)
I'm dusting off my bumblebee story:

...the rest of the thread may be of interest as well. :wink:

Posted: Wed Jul 13, 2011 12:53 pm
by twittel
A couple years ago, I did exactly what Applestar recommended: plant butterfly host plants (larval foods). I used parsley, bronze fennel, dill and milkweed. The results have been so enjoyable watching newbie butterflies develop through their stages. Of course, I also included some bee friendly plants such as butterfly bushes, verbena and lantana. Maybe one small bee-friendly bush would be useful for teaching your little one about bees (and their stingers)?