How to transform your garden into a restaurant for butterflies
Even a small garden can fill with butterflies. The key is to cover it with the species that attract them. But how to do it?
A wake-up call for butterflies is plant very attractive species for their nectar.
The flowers of zinias, budlejas and lantanas, among many other plants, will ensure your arrival.. Nectar is the essential and universal food for adults and is produced by plants to reward pollination work.
If you want to go further, you have to plant the calls host or nutritional plants. They are the plants on which the butterflies lay eggs so that, when they hatch, the larvae have their food in abundance. Nutritional plants are quite specific.
For example, if there are plants of Passiflora caerulea the mirrored butterflies will arrive, among others, to deposit their offspring; if we plant some kind of Asclepia, we will be inviting the monarchs, to talk about the most common and successful examples.
Plant to provide a succulent Food for butterflies in all their stages is the formula for success to get them to settle in the garden.
Butterflies are generally quite territorial, and if they find what they need in one place, they don’t go very far.
What must be taken into account is that, no matter how attractive as ornamental the nutritional plants are, they will look lackluster and perhaps sacrificed by the voracious attack of the caterpillars.
In these gardens it is important not to use broad spectrum insecticides
After a few days after the adult butterfly spawned, the caterpillars hatch, ready to eat the leaves on which they are standing.
Put to eat tirelessly, they are growing at a dizzying rate, they multiply in size rapidly and every so often they must change the epidermis that imprisons them to continue growing. This happens about 4 or 5 times in the cycle.
At a certain point, when they reach maturity, the caterpillars stop eating and wander instinctively looking for a sheltered place to start their adult development.
They will choose the underside of a leaf, the corner of a wall repaired by plants, or other hidden places.
This is the pupal or chrysalis stage, where they do not feed, they are wrapped in a “protective case” and enter the stage where changes that seem fantasy take place, where the tissues liquefy and transform.
The “case” where the metamorphosis takes place can be produced entirely by the larvae or have external complements, for example a leaf wrap to camouflage with the environment.
The pupae cannot necessarily be very visible. Defenseless, they only have to hide. That is why finding them is always a surprise.
Arrived on the day of birth, after the transformation, usually early in the morning, the butterflies break the wrapping and spread their wings that are not yet firm.
While the keratin that supports the shape of the butterfly finishes solidifying, they should not be disturbed and even less touched, it is a critical moment that lasts about an hour.
Transformation has occurred: from insects with strong jaws that feed on leaves almost constantly, they go on to have a diet based on nectar and are ethereal, winged.
In order to suck up their new menu, they have a spirit machine that is like a long straw that they roll up in resting or flight conditions and unroll to drink. Now you can go out to fly over the garden.
Some plants are nutritious for butterflies, which become nurseries of its caterpillars. Among these, the native passion flowers are very convincing, which are born alone in the gardens when the birds transport their seeds. It is enough to leave them a place, they are hosts or nurturers of several attractive butterflies.
Plants of the genus Asclepias they are the nourishment of the monarchs. There are several natives, such as Asclepias mellodora (with white flowers) and naturalized as A. curassavica the Spanish flag.
They are easy to reproduce by seeds. They also spawn several species on the aristolochia, as well as on the talas (Celtis tala, now Celtis ehrenbergiana).
The caterpillars of the Morpho epistrophus argentinus, the Argentine flag butterfly, feed on the crown (Scutia buxifolia). It is a gregarious and very striking butterfly, both in its adult state with its large blue wings, and in its caterpillar phase with red, black and white stripes.
The list of nutritious plants is extensive: lemon trees and other rutáceas, achiras, some asteraceae, such as the chilca de olor (Austroeupatorium inulifolium) that shelter the lazy ones (Actinote skinnea), plantain (Plantago spp.), among other.