Not everyone will be blessed with all sixteen Habitat Components on their property.
This does not mean that introducing as many as possible will not enhance wildlife. The key is to understand each of the components, what they are, how they assist in nature and what wildlife will be assisted by their availability.
Components of a Nature Habitat
Butterfly, Bee and Moth Plants
The Registry of Nature Habitats - Butterfly, Bee and Moth Plants
Components of a Nature Habitat
Living Habitat Component
Backyards and other small areas may have a limited value when managing for larger species like deer, but they are extremely valuable for many other species. With planning and a little work, these areas can easily be managed to benefit nectar-seekers such as hummingbirds and butterflies.
By promoting plant species and habitat components that are beneficial to hummingbirds and butterflies, you can insure their colorful presence. This publication highlights key steps to protect and provide the important habitat areas needed by hummingbirds and butterflies.
Butterflies are among the most beautiful
insects on earth---and one of the few insects we desire to see in
our flower gardens! Their colorful wings add a decorator's touch to
our gardens as they flutter from flower to flower in search for
nectar. Most gardeners wish they could attract more butterflies to
Attracting butterflies to your garden involves essentially
two things: (1) planting the right flowers in the right place, and
(2) refraining from the use of chemical insecticides. To attract
more species of butterflies, you could add to the butterfly garden a
mud puddle, a bowl of rotting fruit, and/or mammal manure. With or
without these additional lures, however, many butterflies will be
enticed to visit a garden that provides desirable nectar sources
which are not poisoned with insecticides. The location of your
property plays a role in determining how many butterfly species
might visit your garden for flower nectar. Some species of
butterflies prefer open areas while others elect to reside near wet
meadows or deciduous forests. Thus, a person living in an open rural
area, near a stream or swamp, and adjacent to a deciduous forest
will likely attract more species of butterflies to his or her garden
than will a city dweller.
The best position for a butterfly garden is in full sun. Butterflies are cold-blooded insects that can only fly well when their body temperatures are above 70 degrees F. You have probably noticed that butterfly activity is limited on cool, cloudy days and increased on warm, sunny days. Without warmth, butterflies are physically unable to fly.
It is advisable to plant the butterfly garden in a location that is
sheltered from the wind. Wind currents make flight maneuver
difficult for butterflies and require the expenditure of extra
energy as they try to feed, mate, and lay eggs. A wind break can be
provided by simply planting evergreens to protect the garden from
When deciding on the plants to incorporate into your butterfly garden, choose a mixture of annuals and perennials. Annuals bloom all summer but must be replanted every spring (after the last frost). Perennials bloom year after year from the same roots but their blooming periods are typically limited to a few weeks or months.
To enable the sight of most of the flowers (and butterflies)
in your garden, plant the shortest flowers in front and the tallest
ones in the back. Plant flower species in masses as butterflies seem
to choose those flowers that are most abundant. Being equipped with
a highly sensitive sense of smell, butterflies are able to identify
clusters of nectar flowers from quite a distance.
the United States, there seems to be little consensus on the flower
color or flower species that most attracts butterflies. Some experts
claim that butterflies prefer purple, lavender, and pink flowers.
Others proclaim red, yellow, and blue blossoms to be the color
preference of nectar-seeking butterflies. Some butterfly gardeners
insist that Lantana is an excellent butterfly-attracting plant while
others insist that it is not. It is likely the case that
different species of butterflies show a preference for different
species of flowers. And since different species of butterflies
inhabit different regions of the U.S., different flowers may be
utilized for nectar in different regions.
The selection of flowers offered as nectar sources also
plays a role in what the butterflies choose as nectar sources. If a
garden includes butterfly bushes, Mexican sunflowers, and purple
coneflowers, you will likely find most of the feeding butterflies on
these flowers. If hungry butterflies do not have the option of
feeding on butterfly bushes, Mexican sunflowers, and purple
coneflowers though, they will settle for something less desirable
just to get their hunger satisfied.
Though avid North American butterfly gardeners may
disagree on many aspects of butterfly gardening, they tend to agree
that every butterfly garden should include butterfly bushes
(Buddleia davidii). Throughout the United States, the
flowers of butterfly bush prove to be irresistable to many species
of butterflies. Butterfly bushes grow 4' to 12' high, depending upon
the variety chosen. Blooming mid July through frost, their fragrant
flower spikes may be white, lavender, pink, or
the best perennials for attracting butterflies to the garden for
feeding are butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa), swamp
milkweed (Asclepias incarnata), purple coneflower
(Echinacea purpurea), Stoke's aster (Stokesia
laevis), tickseed (Coreopsis), lavender
(Lavandula), blanket flower (Gaillardia aristata,
Gaillardia grandiflora)), Joe-Pye weed (Eupatorium
purpureum), and pincushion flower (Scabiosa columbaria).
Other perennials utilized as butterfly nectar sources include
black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia), dame's rocket (Hesperis
matrolalis), hardy ageratum (Eupatorium
coelestinum), heliopsis (Heliopsis helianthoides),
ornamental oregano (Origanum lacvigatum), pinks
(Dianthus), showy stonecrop (Sedum spectabile),
beebalm (Monarda didyma), goldenrod (Solidago),
red valerian (Centranthus), daylily (Hemerocallis),
hyssop (Hyssopus), Phlox, and
To ensure the availability of nectar sources
throughout the summer, long-blooming annuals should be planted
between the perennials you choose for planting. Zinnia, tropical
milkweed, Mexican sunflower, cosmos, verbena, lantana, pentas,
strawflower, and heliotrope are good annual choices for the
butterfly garden. Experiment with different flower colors to
determine what the butterflies in your area seem to prefer.
Just by planting the right
flowers in the right place, you will likely attract many species of
butterflies to your garden. Amidst these butterflies will probably
be Monarchs, Swallowtails, Painted Ladies, Red Admirals,
Fritillaries, Hairstreaks, Coppers, and Crescents.
While flower nectar is the chief food source for most
butterflies, a few butterfly species prefer to feast on rotting
fruit, mud, and/or mammal manure. Red Admirals, Red-spotted Purples,
Commas, and Mourning Cloaks are among those butterflies that
sometimes dine on rotting fruit. Spring Azures, Eastern Tailed
Blues, Sulphurs, and Swallowtails are known to extract nutrients
from mud. Viceroys, Red Admirals, Meadow Fritillaries, and other
butterfly species periodically feast on mammal
Butterflies add beauty to our world and fascinate people of every age. Entice butterflies to visit your own back yard by planting the flowers that most appeal to them!