Late summer and early fall is the time when we see big wonderful butterflies lapping up nectar. Although you may have other attractions, I have one they favor and then a wealth of others they visit daily.
Butterflies love phlox. Old garden phlox isn’t at its most beautiful mid-summer because it tends to get mildew, lose leaves and look messy. They flop and sometimes crowd out more well behaved plants. But “Katie Bar the Door” – in August they attract the large butterflies - the swallowtails. Swallowtails love phlox so much they don’t even notice me taking their picture or kids screaming in excitement.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the little butterflies and the less distinctive ones but for a real show, it’s swallowtails. They lazily soar and flit from flower to flower sometimes over the house from front to back.
There are more than 600 species of swallowtails worldwide; fewer than 30 in North America. Fewer still in our area. Most fall into four general subgroups:
- · Black swallowtails are black with yellow spots or bands. The caterpillars usually feed on the carrot family.
- · Giant swallowtails are dark brown and yellow and their caterpillars favor citrus plants.
- · Tiger swallowtails are generally yellow with black stripes and like deciduous trees.
- · Pipevine swallowtails are blackish and their caterpillars eat aristolochias vines.
If you want butterflies, you have to fill their needs during their entire life cycle. And you can’t use insecticides.
Plant some of the following in your gardens and yard and do it in mass. Butterflies will be drawn to large areas of like flowers. I have large areas of phlox in most of my sun gardens.
Plant annuals such as zinnia, sunflowers and cleome. Perennials such as bee balm, globe thistle, butterfly bush, Queen Ann’s lace (carrot family), Hosta, honeysuckle and milkweed. Wild flowers and herbs such as cow parsnip, rue, parsley and fennel.
Provide a little shade protection, a nice rock for sunning and a water source. Butterflies like a saucer filled with sand and kept wet.
And now to the wow factor: Most everything you do for butterflies also benefits bees, moths and other beneficial insects and birds (including hummingbirds.) Make your yard and gardens chick magnets!