How to attract butterflies to your backyard
1. Plant a wide variety of flowers, especially yellow and purple varieties with simple open blooms. Old-fashioned varieties often provide more of the nectar butterflies seek than modern, more colourful hybrids. (Don’t miss these 10 simple tips for growing a vegetable garden—anywhere!)
2. Serve up water in a butterfly-friendly format. Butterflies will drink plain old water, but there are two simple versions that they love even more. The first method involves filling a cake pan (or other shallow pan) with sand, then saturating it with water. The butterflies will suck water out of the sand along with other minerals they crave. The second, more souped-up version, involves spreading sand in an open area of a flowerbed, then setting a mineral block—the kind cattle lick, usually available through feed dealers—in the middle. Rain, dew and normal watering will leach the minerals into the sand bed for the butterflies to enjoy.
3. Provide a butterfly maternity ward. Females frequently lay eggs, and while some will drop them on a variety of plants, others can be quite fussy. Monarch butterflies, for example, will leave eggs only on milk-weed plants. You can find information on other good host plants at butterflywebsite.com or thebutterflyfarm.com.
4. Give them a hangout. Butterflies like small nooks where they can hide from predators in summer and stay cozy all winter. Butterfly houses with slot openings look quaint, but research shows they’re more attracted to a natural environment like hollow logs, cracks in stone, loose bark or a stack of firewood.
5. Create a spot for sunbathing. Butterflies bask in the early morning sun until they’re warm enough to get on with the day. Your watering hole can serve double duty if positioned in the sun. Otherwise concrete paver bricks or stones nestled into a sunny area of the garden also give them a nice spot for sunbathing.
6. Offer shelter from the storm. The calmer the environment, the more attractive it is to butterflies. So locate all the previously discussed amenities in an area sheltered by a fence or building, or a clump of trees or large plants. (Check out these urban gardening tips that are perfect for small spaces.)
7. Play it safe. Avoid using pesticides or harmful chemicals on plants or water sources you provide for butterflies.
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