As you create your backyard habitat,
don't overlook the nectar-seekers - hummingbirds and butterflies.
They are valuable plant pollinators, and delightful to observe as
It's easy to attract butterflies to your garden by
providing their favorite nectar-producing flowers. But to persuade
them to stay all summer, you must also grow those plants that
supply food for the insects' larval stage. Female butterflies lay
their eggs only on certain plants that will nourish the young
caterpillars (larvae) after they hatch. Some caterpillars feed on
just one kind of plant, while others may dine on a broad range of
related species. Zebra swallowtail larvae, for example, feed only
on pawpaw plants, while tiger swallowtails will consume leaves from
many broadleaf shrubs and trees, especially willows and tulip
Here are some ways to create a backyard butterfly
- Let a few sunny areas in your yard go wild. Grasses and
wildflowers native to your region of Florida are the best and most
permanent butterfly draws. Over time, introduce seeds of other
native butterfly-attracting herbs to these natural food patches.
Try to introduce vegetation that has staggered blooming seasons so
you can offer a steady progression of flowers throughout the warm
- Mow your meadow areas only at the end of the butterfly season
(November in most parts of Florida) to avoid harming larvae.
- As you design your landscape plan, select some of your
permanent trees, shrubs and vines specifically for their butterfly
food value. This can be as simple as placing a few important shrubs
in a sunny spot you can see from your porch or window. Reference
our fact sheet on butterfly gardening, which lists the larval and
nectar food plants for each common Florida butterfly.
- Provide at least one puddle area for your butterflies, because
these insects cannot drink from open water. Wet sand, earth or mud
are the best butterfly watering holes.
Butterflies prefer to drink water by lapping
moisture from sand, soil or rock surfaces. You can make a watering
station for butterflies by adding sand to the saucer of a bird bath
to reduce its depth. Add a rock to the center that can act as a
resting spot. Wet the sand so that it is thoroughly moist but not
submerged. A large saucer designed to fit beneath clay flower pots
will do the same job handsomely.
- Enhance your butterfly management effort with personal
observations. Learn which species already occur in your area and
identify the plants they are visiting. Go a step further and study
local butterflies and their preferred plants in more natural field
and forest settings. Many field guides on butterflies and local
flora can help you in your identification (see For
- Most important of all, refrain from using insecticides and
herbicides in your habitat. Explain the harmful effects of these
chemicals to your neighbors as well.
- For more information, reference our fact sheet on butterfly gardening or our Attracting
Butterflies for the Summer web page.