1, Plant their host plant (or feeding the kids)
Everyone knows about planting swan plants for hungry Monarch butterfly caterpillars, but less well known are the host plants for other native NZ butterflies.
Red and Yellow Admirals must have a nettle patch. This can be tucked away in a less used part of your garden, possibly fenced if you’re worried about young children getting stung.
The Copper butterfly meal of choice is muehlenbeckia, but while the rampant roadside version is wonderful habitat for them, you don’t want it in your garden. Much less likely to swallow up the trampoline and household pets is Muehlenbeckia axillaris, a mild mannered groundcover which still suits the Coppers taste buds nicely.
2, Food for the Adults (or the liquid lunch)
Along with the change from caterpillar to adult butterfly also comes a change in food requirements. The days of munching are over – what the adults need are liquid refreshments.
So, plant flowers, flowers and did I mention flowers. As a rule old-fashioned and wildflower varieties are best as they are much richer in nectar than modern hybrids. Special favourites of the discerning butterfly are Echinacea, Monarda, cosmos, zinnia, single dahlias, kowhai and hebes. There are some great wildflower seed mixes around especially for butterflies and bees that you can just scatter directly into your garden. Easy as.
3, Say No to Pesticides
Ban these scorched-earth policy nasties from your garden; rather, strive for a balance of biodiversity instead. Even many ‘natural’ and ‘organic’ sprays will also kill caterpillars, butterflies and bees. Chemicals don’t know the difference between a cabbage white and a Red Admiral.
4, Shelter from the Elements and Predators
Just as you and I like to be safe and cosy in our home on a stormy night, it is doubly important when you have delicate wings easily battered and torn by strong winds. A mix of shrubs and trees as a windbreak is much better than a fence, doubling as protection from predators too. If you were playing hide and seek, which would you prefer?
5, Know Your Enemy – The Social Wasp
While we generally connect wasps with summer and their annoying fixation with our jam sandwiches and half eaten fruit, earlier on in spring they are on patrol dismembering caterpillars and other tasty insect morsels into carry-on luggage sized pieces they can easily fly with. These are taken back to Wasp-Nest Central as protein packed snacks for their growing families.
Keep an eye out and if you do find a nest call a professional, or if you decide to dispose of it yourself, use an approved insecticide and follow all instructions. But whatever you do, don’t try the old-wives-tale method of pouring over petrol and setting it on fire. Eyebrows can take a long time to grow back.
#earthlorenz #attracting butterflies to your garden #gardening for wildlife
#native butterflies #caring for wildlife in The Catlins