September 22, 2020

In addition to being a beautiful addition to any yard, butterflies play a vital role for the environment as a whole and as plant pollinators. Sadly, however, changes in climate and weather, as well as the widespread use of pesticides and the constant, ongoing loss of their habitats due to urban spread have left the welfare of butterflies increasingly compromised. Luckily, individuals, families and communities can help to counteract the many threats facing these gorgeous and important creatures, while simultaneously protecting other beneficial insects, by planting butterfly gardens.
In a podcast recorded July 16, 2020, Steve Shoemaker, President, Ideal Homes, and Trish Morris, Community Development Project Manager, Ideal Homes, discussed how raw land can become a home for you and butterflies and the role compost can play in that endeavor.
PLANNING YOUR GARDEN When creating a butterfly garden it’s important to not just create a place that will attract existing butterflies, but that will also entice them to stick around long enough to lay eggs, thereby encouraging them to procreate and produce even more butterflies. Three considerations should be kept in mind when selecting plants for a butterfly garden. You want them to include:
  1. Plants that are native to your area
  2. Plants that produce nectar and will, therefore, provide adult butterflies with energy; and
  3. Plants that will feed and shelter caterpillars
Every county in Oklahoma has an OSU Extension Office. Find the contact information for your county’s extension office HERE. These offices can provide a wealth of information on butterfly-friendly plants that are native to your area. IMPORTANT CONSIDERATIONS To be effective, in addition to plants, every butterfly garden needs to offer the following four important benefits: Access to Sunshine Butterflies are cold-blooded insects. As a result, they often start the day by warming their bodies in the sun. This means you need to be sure that your garden includes a spot where sunlight will reach the ground early in the day. Also think about including surfaces like large rocks, exposed soil and even pavement, as they are quick to warm up in morning sunlight. Your garden should be placed in a location where it will receive a minimum of six hours of sunshine every day. Some Moisture Although butterflies need water, they require a surprising small amount. Dew, nectar and tree sap help to provide necessary moisture but puddles and moist dirt or sand also work surprisingly well. Something as simple as a damp area of ground covered by sand in a location where they are easily seen and sheltered from the wind can be extremely beneficial. Such “puddling stations” are thought to provide dissolved salts in addition to water. Shelter from Wind Very light and fragile creatures, butterflies are all too easily buffeted by even a small amount of wind and rain. So, for them to be able to remain on a plant long enough to feed on its nectar and/or to lay eggs, that plant needs to have something around it that shelters it from the elements. Having a mixture of plants in your garden such as trees, shrubs, grasses and sedges will provide a butterfly-friendly habitat. In some cases, wind-blocking fences can help as well. Absolutely No Pesticides Pesticides have no place in a butterfly garden. In fact, it’s best if no pesticides are used anywhere close to a butterfly garden. Remember, butterflies (and caterpillars) are insects. Products such as Dursban, Diazinon and Malathion are designed and specifically created to kill insects. They aren’t able to discriminate between which are harmful and which are beneficial. Instead, these products are designed to kill all insects that come into contact with them. Period. So, don’t let insecticides to be used anywhere close to your butterfly garden.
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