You know what looks really good sitting on top of your fence? Texas’ state insect, the monarch butterfly. These bright orange and black fellows (and gals) fly through twice a year, migrating between their northern breeding grounds and overwintering party places in Mexico.
Dozens of other types of butterflies make their home in Texas, too. And on March 14, America celebrates these colorful critters with National Learn about Butterflies Day. No, we did not make that up, and no, next week is not just about drinking green beer and toasting Saint Pat. Instead, let’s put a little thought enticing butterflies to drop by and decorate your yard.
What butterflies need: creating a butterfly-friendly garden
Just like us, butterflies prize food, water and shelter. Unlike us, they can’t regulate their body temperatures, so sun is very important. If you want a butterfly-friendly garden, make sure you have a sunny area with a wind block, such as a fence or shrubbery. Place a few dark rocks on the ground so they can warm themselves in the sun.
Thirsty butterflies really appreciate a pan of wet sand or mud for a refreshing drink. You might see butterflies gathering around damp area in your yard after it rains. That could be the perfect spot to place a pan of water to keep butterflies coming back for more. You can use a dish or a partially-buried plastic pail filled with sand and water. Add rocks or twigs to provide landing surfaces for butterflies while they drink.
Did you know butterflies are near-sighted? This is one reason they like masses of brightly colored flowers. It makes it easier for them to find life-sustaining nectar. Here are some butterfly favorites, in terms of both color and nectar, according to Texas Parks and Wildlife:
- Purple Coneflower
- Gregg’s Mistflower
- White Mistflower
- Indian Blanket
- Eye Daisy
- Texas Kidneywood
- Turk’s Cap
- Texas Lantana
- Bee brush
Avoid chemical pesticides in the butterfly garden. You’ve seen those 1950s movies about bugs and animals mutating and turning rogue after exposure to the wrong chemicals, right? Not in MY backyard, thank you very much.
What about caterpillars?
While gardeners love butterflies, they’re not so psyched to see caterpillars. But it’s a well-known entomological fact that you can’t have butterflies without caterpillars. So don’t forget the little guys when planning your garden. Like many children, caterpillars can be picky eaters. Future monarchs eat milkweed. Black swallowtails like dill, parsley, fennel and celery. Personally, we never finish that parsley on our plates, and are happy to share with caterpillars.
Bottom line: If you want butterflies in your garden, expect to sacrifice a bit of foliage to caterpillars. So depending on what kind of butterflies you want to attract, plant the preferred food of their offspring.
Keeping up with the butterflies
Once you attract those desired butterflies, you’ll love to see them float around your yard, winging from flower to flower, spreading pollen and beauty. But what if one lands on your fence and you realize that your old fence is looking shabby? No worries. Call your friends at Buzz Custom Fence and we’ll help you upgrade your fence so it will be a worthy backdrop for the Texas state insect.