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NEWisc
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Creating a Garden for Butterflies

A couple of years ago I became interested in butterflies. With a new digital camera I set out to photograph every butterfly I could find in my area. I photographed a quite a few, but that lead to the question of what other butterflies could I expect to find in my area. With a Google search for butterfly websites, I got lucky and found a website that listed all the butterflies that had been documented in my state and county:

https://www.wisconsinbutterflies.org/butterflies/

This site not only narrowed down the species that I could expect to see, but it had a lot of information on ID’ing the butterflies. It also contained some information on butterfly ecology, which stimulated an interest to dig deeper into the life of these butterflies. That led to my discovery of this book at my local library:

A World for Butterflies: Their Lives, Habitats and Future
Author: Phillip J. Schappert
Publisher: Firefly Books (September 2, 2000)
ISBN-10: 1552095509
ISBN-13: 978-1552095508

A World for Butterflies: Their Lives, Behavior and Future
Author: Phillip J. Schappert
Publisher: Firefly Books (March 5, 2005)
ISBN-10: 1554070651
ISBN-13: 978-1554070657

Author’s Website:
https://www.aworldforbutterflies.com/

This book opened up a new understanding of butterflies. It gets into life cycles, behavior and conservation; and it also explained many of the biological mysteries of these insects. It showed how close relationships evolved between the butterflies and the native plants in their habitats.

With that background, I decided to create a garden for my local butterflies. I emphasized "for" because my approach differs from the usual approach to butterfly gardening. The usual approach is to plant some flowers that someone has noticed butterflies using for nectaring. That may draw some butterlfies in for viewing, but it doesn’t provide what the butterflies really need. They need host plants.

Host plants are the plants that the butterfly’s caterpillars use for food. Most butterflies are quite selective about which plants they will use for host plants. There’s a good reason why butterflies are so selective. Each species of caterpillar has specific nutritional/biological needs; if it finds itself on the wrong plant, it will usually not survive. For some species it’s just one species of plant. In my area, the Karner Blue will only use wild lupine (Lupinus perennis) and the Northern Blue will only use the dwarf bilberry (Vaccinium cespitosum). If those plants are not available, there will be no new generations of Karner Blues or Northern Blues. Other butterflies are usually a little more liberal in their selection of host plants. Monarchs, for example, can use any of the plants in the genus Asclepias (Milkweeds). A few butterflies are generalists and can use many species of plants for host plants; Painted Lady’s, for example, can use over 100 different species.

For some butterflies, host plants provide the only good opportunity to observe them. These butterflies rarely use flower nectar for food. Their food comes from tree sap, rotting fruit, carrion and other non-flower sources. Some of these butterflies include the Red Admiral, Red Spotted Purple, Mourning Cloak, Commas, Tortoiseshells, White Admiral, Little Wood Satyr, and Common Wood-Nymph.

Providing for the nutritional needs of most adult butterflies includes nectaring plants and “puddlingâ€
Last edited by NEWisc on Fri Jun 20, 2008 4:19 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Age is a biological fact.
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applestar
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Thanks for the great links, esp. the butterfly map/region. Didn't know about that one before.

I'm attempting to attract the black swallowtails this year and am planting dill seeds everywhere I possibly can. For now, that and the milkweed for monarchs are the main food plants I'm maintaining on purpose. I have other possible food plants/shrubs/trees so I'll just try to ID any caterpillars I find on them. Oh, I did ID Snowberry clearwing moth caterpillars on my honey suckle last year. So I'll probably see more this year.

I've also planted a pseudo-meadow this year -- I say "pseudo" because I can't do the "clear area, weed, then plant" method. It's planted with native nectar plants and some that are not, although I'm hoping to ultimately "go 100% native". In an attempt to "weaken" the lawn grass' hold on the area, I've hill-planted some pumpkins, runner beans, and convolvulus (I'm a little uncertain about this one -- it's tricolor -- somebody gave me the seed packet, I thought it was an annual, but I just noticed it says z 3~9... if anyone can give me pros/cons for doing this, let me know -- I just planted the seeds today so it's not too late to change it.), that I'm going to let sprawl on the ground. We'll see how the area holds up this year. Another possible butterfly attractant will be the sunflower house.

I'd love to have the luna moth come visit -- I do have a sweet gum just behind the back fence and LOTS of volunteer hickory around my garden, courtesy of forgetful squirrels :lol: According to the website, the adults don't feed, but one year I had moonflower vines growing all over my front porch, they were fluttering around it. Hopeful of repeat performance, I've planted/am planting moonflowers in several parts of my garden.

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NEWisc
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The Black Swallowtail is one of my favorites. I only have two of the swallowtails in my area, the other one is the Canadian Tiger Swallowtail. I find the caterpillars and the pupa of the BST very interesting. They go from this:

[img]https://img.photobucket.com/albums/v466/northeastwisc/BST_Cat_1.jpg[/img]


to this:

[img]https://img.photobucket.com/albums/v466/northeastwisc/BST_Cat_2.jpg[/img]


to this (the second brood overwinters as a pupa):

[img]https://img.photobucket.com/albums/v466/northeastwisc/Black_Swallowtail_Ch_1.jpg[/img]


I've been using the Golden Alexanders (Zizia aurea) for host plants:

[img]https://img.photobucket.com/albums/v466/northeastwisc/Zizia_1.jpg[/img]


The BST's have two broods in my area, and dill either doesn't have enough foliage for the first brood or has matured and dried up by the time of the second brood. The Zizia's are already up with lots of foliage, and will stay green with plenty of foliage for the second brood.

Here's a site that may be of some help ID'ing caterpillars:
https://www.npwrc.usgs.gov/resource/insects/cateast/families.htm

I hand raised some Luna moth caterpillars in an enclosure a couple of years ago. I raised them on White Birch leaves and they did very well. They do eat a lot, and create a considerable amount of fras! A very beautiful moth.
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Age is a biological fact.
Old is a state of mind.
I will age, but I refuse to get old.

NewjerseyTea
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NEWWisc,
Thanks for sharing your research and photos. Lots and lots of valuable information there.

applestar,
I think Bowmans Hill in Pa. has seeds for the Golden Alexanders NEWisc has photographed and recommended. (There is A Spring And Fall plant sale with many desirable natives.) I have successfully used bronze fennel for black swallowtails but on learning of its invasive nature I will be switching to the Golden Alexander.
The Native Plant Society of NJ www.npsnj.org has a list of NJ native host and nectar plants for NJ native butterflies.

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applestar
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Beautiful photos NEWisc. I see your point about dill and zizia is beautiful -- definitely adding that to my meadow! Thanks NJtea for the source suggestion -- I'm bummed to see that I just missed the spring sale. I'll have to try for the fall one.

I'm new to wildflowers -- could I get the seeds now and start them indoors, plant transplants, etc? I was just thinking maybe I could start more parsley seeds to supplement....

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NEWisc
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Most native wildflower seeds need a cold-moist stratification period (typically a couple of months) before they will germinate. It's nature's way of making sure that seeds released in the summer and fall don't germinate right away and then get killed by the first frost. I'm not that familiar with NJ's growing season, but I think that if you add the stratification time and the actual germination time, the seedlings probably wouldn't have enough growing time left to reach the maturity necessary to survive the first winter.

The easiest way from seed is to sow the seeds in place in late fall or early winter. There will be some losses to insects and birds, but if it's sown after the onset of cold weather and shortly before a covering snow the losses shouldn't be too great.

If you like to start things in flats so that you can significantly increase the success rate, you'll need to incorporate the cold-moist stratification period into your plan. This is what I do with most of my seeds.

A good reference for cold-moist stratification requirements and methods (by species) is the Prairie Moon Nursery catalog:
https://www.prairiemoon.com/
It can be downloaded or you can request a hard copy (it's free). It has info on over 500 native species.

I've always felt that you can plant/transplant just about any plant at any time. It just takes a lot more attention to detail in order to be successful when it's done during the rapid growth period. The plant really needs to be babied for a few days. No rough handling of the roots, no direct sun, no drying out or water logging of the roots. The roots need both air and water to function properly. A light mulch really helps to keep the roots happy.

For the BST's for this year, adding some parsley to the mix of plants should help a lot. You could also try some later sowings of some more dill seed.
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Age is a biological fact.
Old is a state of mind.
I will age, but I refuse to get old.

NewjerseyTea
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applestar,
Bowmanshill is worth a visit at any time and they do sell a small number of plants throughout the season. Check the NJ Native plant website for native plant nurseries.

EarthFirstNatives
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I love Bowman's Hill. I have been a member there for three years now and love there plant sales and go a couple times a year. They also have some good classes. We had a field trip there on Plant Stewardship Index in my Environmental Steward Class. Its great what they are doing up there. Maybe I have seen you there, even :wink:

Raven

NewjerseyTea
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Hi Raven,
It's good to see other New Jeseryans that are interested in the environment and native plants. Maybe you can start a thread on the Environmental Stewardship Class your taking and fill us in.

EarthFirstNatives
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Location: Egg Harbor TWP, NJ

Hi

Class is over now, but I am in the process of deciding what my project will be. You can learn more about the program by going on Rutgers website. It is an offshoot of the Master Gardener program, but I highly recommend it - it is SOOOOOOOOOo interesting! I looked forward all week to Wednesdays classes. I took mine in EHT at the Atlantic County Utilities Authority. I know they hold then at the rutgers eco-complex in Columbus, but I think there is one further north.

Peace

Raven

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applestar
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Back in June, I bought a few plants of heart-leaved zizias (Toadstool was out of the regular kind) They were nice enought to send me one with a seed stalk when I told them what I wanted them for. :D Hopefully, they will grow and multiply in my little Meadow Garden.

In the mean time, the Dill has been the popular hang out for the Black Swallowtails. I've been collecting them as 1st instars and raising them indoors, and I stumbled on the perfect solution -- carrots! I planted a lot of carrots for my kids to enjoy, and while I'll chop up the carrot tops to add to my own meals, neither my hubby nor the kids want very much of it (just a hint -- like parsley -- is about all they'll tolerate) Meanwhile, the swallowtail cats in 4th and 5th instar stages EAT A LOT and I've mostly run out of dill (as predicted) and I do want SOME of the parsley for the humans. So all they get now is dill flowers or carrot tops. At first, they were reluctant to eat the carrot tops :roll: but voracious as they are, they are accepting what they get now. 8) So far, we've flown 2, waiting for 1 chrysalis to eclose, and have 5 5th instar cats that will hopefully pupate and emerge this fall. I'm not sure about the 1 2nd instar and 1 3rd instar that are still growing -- maybe they'll spend the winter in the garage. (That makes total of 10! :wink: )

We've tagged and released 3 Monarchs so far, with current total from egg to butterflies at 30. So I'd say we're doing pretty well this year. :D

Haven't had the chance to get to Bowman's Hill yet, but I'm not missing the plant sale in Sept. :wink:

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NEWisc
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Sounds like you're having a great time with your butterflies this year! Nice to get 'up close and personal' with all the life stages of a butterfly. It's been a little slow in my area. Perhaps the large scale flooding in the Midwest this spring and early summer has taken it's toll on the butterflies that usually inhabit northern WI.

I had a quick look at the butterflies that have been reported in NJ, and you really have a nice variety of species. Lots of nice choices for butterfly gardening. One group that I kind of overlooked in the discussion above is the Skippers. They are small, but once you get to know them they are fun to watch. A lot of them use native grasses for host plants; so when you head over to Bowman's Hill, don't forget to have a look at some of the native grasses. Fall is when a lot of the grasses are at their best. A lot of birds really like the seeds in the winter too.
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Age is a biological fact.
Old is a state of mind.
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applestar
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NJtea -- my hubby is NOT happy with you 8)
I went to Bowman's Hill today for their plant sale. :D Need I say more? :twisted: :roll: :wink:

NewjerseyTea
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Yes, say more and tell us what plants you bought. Unfortunately I will miss this one and want to get vicarious pleasure by hearing of all the wonderful plants you saw and purchased. Please.

BTW NEWisc the skippers are out in full force now here. There are delightful to watch as you mentioned. There seem to be large groups of them covering every available free space on the asters. Thanks for the information on the grasses as host plants. That is probably the reason I started to see so many the last few years after I added Switch grass, Little Bluestem and Indian grass.

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applestar
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READY?
Corylus americana
Ilex verticillata 'Winter Red' (female)
Ilex verticillata 'Jim Dandy' (male) -- was told they're "compatible" :wink:
Castana pumila
Cercis canadensis (2) - one has a folded up leaf with four striped, very active -- almost jumps forward -- larvae in it -- am thinking beetle rather than moth cats? Waiting to ID before acting -- hopefully before the little 6" pot plants are defoliated!
Ceanothus americanus (5!)
Comptonia peregrina (2) -- would've bought more but they weren't in very good shape -- they're supposed to spread so I probably won't need any more.
Cephalanthus occidentalis 'Sputnik'
Clethra alnifolia 'Hummingbird'
Pachysandra procumbens (2)
Aquilegia canadensis
Chrysogonum virginianum (2)
Silene virginica (2)
Chasmanthium latifolium -- couldn't resist
Sporobolis heterolepis (3)
Asclepias verticillata -- don't know if this is really NJ native -- just wanted to diversity Asclepias varieties...
Amsonia hubrectii (2) -- also not sure of native status -- needed sunny/dry plants for expanded flower bed
Adiantum pedatum
Allium cernuum (2) -- picked ones with the MOST seedheads & collected the seeds in an envelope so as not to lose any 8)
Asclepias incarnata
Solidago odora (2)

... to date, I only have the 2 Ilex verticillata in the ground... :oops:
I'm glad most of them are small. Only really big items are Ilex, Corylus, Castana, Clethra, and Cephalanthus. :roll:

My patch of sedum flowered today. I counted 12 skippers and 20 honeybees :D

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applestar
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I was a busy bee planting today:

NEAR BOG SWALE
• Cephalanthus occidentalis 'Sputnik'
• Asclepias incarnata
• (Clethra alnifolia 'Hummingbird' will go in the hole left behind when I dug up a small Acer rubrum)

DEEP SHADE under Willow Oak
• Pachysandra procumbens (1)
• Chrysogonum virginianum (2)

SHADE GARDEN
• Adiantum pedatum
• Pachysandra procumbens (1)

NEW SunnyDry FLOWER BED - Extended from an Island bed of
• Acer palmatum (2)
• Fragaria virginiana (many)
to accomodate volunteer
• Asclepias tuberosa and
• (2) Honey locust seedlings
with
• Silene virginica (1)
• Sporobolis heterolepis (2)
• Asclepias verticillata
• Aquilegia canadensis
• Ceanothus americanus (1)
... along with other plants purchased elsewhere:
• Arctophylus uva-ursi
• Liatris spicata 'Kobold'
... and my MIL gave me a whole bunch of seedlings she grew herself of
• Papaver orientale

I *was* also going to put in Echinacea purpurea 'White Swan' but I read that it is suspected of being alleopathic to Sporpbolis heterolepis, so the Echinacea will have to go in my Sunny Meadow-to-be, where I'll also plant one of the Sporobolis but a good distance away, as well as the Sea (Wild) Oats and the Solidago odora (2) tomorrow. I'm also pretty sure where I want to plant the Corylus and Castana -- after changing placement 3 or 4 times already -- so I'll have to get cracking on taking care of them as well. I plan to companion the Corylus with Comptonia, Ceanothus, and a Black Huckleberry that I'm moving from a shady location it didn't seem to like, and the Castana with Cercis and Ceanothus. (Wow, that's another full day right there :shock:)

SOO looking forward to next spring!:wink:

NewjerseyTea
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That is quite a list of new plants and gardens, applestar. I am very jealous.

I also purchased 3 Ilex verticillata recently to wedge into my tiny front "meadow" garden. I too bought the Jim Dandy since it seemed to be the smallest (8' at maturity) male possible compatible with the 2 female Red Sprites I also purchased. When the winterberries do berry (any idea how look that will take?) they will be joined by the red rose hips and red new stems of a cutting of Rosa Virginiana( this a a large spreading shrub) I moved to the front last year.

My image is to have a winter garden of the red berries and twigs of these 2 among the golden winter forms of Switch and Indian grass interspersed with a few evergreen native inkberry. Well that's what I planned anyway we'll see what it turns out to look like. The inkberry do have little blue berries this year but have proved very picky about spacing. They must have room around them or drop the leaves entirely off the side other plants lean on. Those are all for the birds and of course visual effect.

For the butterflies I also found 2 golden alexander plants and a few more buterfly weed plants.

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applestar
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I think the red berries, hips, and stems would look LOVELY! :D
The winter color combo sounds great too.

I was thinking of putting in a row of red osier dogwood in front of the farthest panel of the white fence near the neighbors where I'm not going to want to plant anything high maintenance or edible. I was also thinking about Rosa virginiana for front of the Corylus. Actually, I'm debating on R. virginiana or R. carolina vs. one of the really "hippy" roses that are not native but are more crop-worthy fro humans like Apple Rose or one of the rugosas..... There's a Waldorf school in Kimberton, PA -- when I visited, their rose bushes had hips that were about 1" across! Would they be Apple Rose, I wonder? I didn't get a chance to ask. :?:

Well, you know how they say you should prune plants when you first plant them? Some"Bunny" took it upon him/herself to STRIP all the leaves and chomped to about 2/3 of the original height, 3 of the 5 Ceanothus! ARRGH! :evil: Hopefully they won't be nibbled down to the ground.... Why can't they just eat the dandelions... at least until the shrubs get shrubbier :?

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