Butterflies provide a beautiful living component to our gardens and yards with their vibrant colors, sizes, and graceful flight. Though only one group of the many pollinators, they play an essential role by pollinating many wildflowers, shrubs, vines, and other woody plants. With habitat loss occurring throughout our state, adding butterfly habitat to the landscape is a vital step in aiding pollinator populations. Simply providing food sources and other living requirements for adults and caterpillars can ensure their continued survival and contribution to the environment.
Different butterfly species require specific types of habitats ranging from deep shady woodlands to open fields and meadows. Butterflies visit habitats for food, water, and shelter requirements. The more the variety of habitats and plants you provide on your property, the more diverse species of butterflies you will likely have.
Although we all enjoy and appreciate the winged adult butterflies, understanding their entire lifecycle is vital in developing a thriving butterfly habitat. Butterflies must go through four stages of development to complete their lifecycle, egg, larva, pupa, and adult. Each stage differs from the prior in appearance and habitat needs.
A butterfly’s lifecycle begins with the egg, usually laid on the underside of leaves on a host plant. After a couple of weeks, the eggs hatch, and tiny caterpillars emerge. These caterpillars, also called larva, feed on the host plant leaves and shed their skin several times while growing during this stage of their lifecycle. In a month or so, the larva begins to develop the pupal or chrysalis stage. After a few weeks, an adult butterfly will emerge from the chrysalis or cocoon-like structure. Most adult butterflies have a short life cycle. Some species mate and live only a matter of days; others are known to survive for more than a year. To attract butterflies to your yard, you need to provide food, shelter, and breeding habitat. Many homeowners improve butterfly habitats by establishing a butterfly garden.
The following are a few suggestions for establishing a butterfly garden.
Since butterflies are cold-blooded creatures, they need sunny areas to warm in the sunshine. A few flat rocks or stones in an open area will give butterflies a place to warm-up on cool mornings. They will also use brick walkways and concrete patios.
Hopefully, if you plan to start a butterfly garden, these suggestions will help improve your butterfly habitat. Remember that some butterfly species are more plentiful during certain times of the year, and your butterfly population will likely change throughout the season. For more information on butterfly gardens, check out the Clemson Home and Garden Information Factsheet, HGIC 1701 Butterflies in the Garden.
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