A garden for butterflies

Natural gardens have a year-round supply of nectar.
Here I will explain to you how a green lawn becomes a butterfly meadow, which ornamental plants are particularly popular with butterflies, and how to provide butterflies and their caterpillars with enough food from early spring to autumn.

Butterflies dance leisurely across meadows … that’s how we dream of summer. As if nature had played forgotten, she has adorned these winged creatures with abundant colors and patterns. Aurora butterfly, map, ox-eye, chessboard, and whatever they are called. Even the ancient Greeks were enchanted by them and regarded butterflies as a symbol of the soul.

Preparation for the next summer

But we don’t find the summer picture so often these days. Over sixty percent of the moths are on the red list. Habitat destruction and the use of toxins put an end to them. The colorful insects can no longer find food in many gardens either. Instead of native flowers, grasses, bushes and trees, boring standard lawns and exotic plants dominate. If you want to change something about this in your garden, you should already think about the next summer season:

Different biotopes can be created depending on the location, size and soil properties of the garden. For example a herbaceous border, a fragrant herb bed or a hedge with wild bushes. However, if you want to convert part of your English lawn into a colorful butterfly meadow, you first have to lower the nutrient content of the soil, as most wildflowers thrive on poor soil. The best way to do this is to partially remove the existing sward. The soil is plowed up at the exposed areas, made thinner by adding sand and sown with a flower meadow mixture available from specialist shops.

Plant native wildflowers

Carthusian carnation, pigeon skabios, spotted St. John’s wort, wild marjoram and other local wild flowers attract butterflies with their colors and scents. Like marionettes on invisible threads, they dance from flower to flower, suck nectar through their protruding trunk and thus act as pollinators. If you don’t just want to rely on your plants, you can also attract butterflies with artificial food. A “butterfly cocktail” made from sugar water, fruit juice or ripe fruit has proven itself.

Butterfly lovers don’t have to do without exotic plants entirely. It is only important that the flowers are not filled so that the delicate insects have easy access to the nectar. The summer lilac is a particularly rich nectar filling station. It magically attracts our butterflies. On some warm days, its inflorescences are densely covered with butterflies. Then we can experience the peacock butterfly, little fox or admiral up close. Other exotic nectar dispensers are blue pillows, nasturtiums, phlox and zinnia.

Flowers from spring to autumn

Plant in such a way that something will always bloom from early spring to late autumn so that the butterflies are always adequately supplied with nectar. In spring, squill, cowslip and marguerite provide liquid nutrition, in autumn purple sedum or New Belgian aster.

Over eighty percent of our butterflies are nocturnal. Some plants only develop their full aroma at dusk and attract moths. You will find your nectar sources on invisible aroma roads with dreamlike security. The moth plants include honeysuckle, evening primrose, night light carnation and the nodding celibate.

Also think of caterpillar forage plants

A plentiful supply of nectar attracts butterflies to the garden, but they only stay guests if we don’t look after their caterpillars at the same time. Let’s not forget: without caterpillars there are no butterflies! In contrast to the butterflies, they are not interested in nectar, but rather target the leaves of native plants. While the butterfly visits a variety of different sources of nectar, its caterpillar is already more picky about its food plant. The swallowtail caterpillar lives on the wild carrot or parsley, the chessboard and ox-eye caterpillars feed on grass, and the larva of the middle wine hawk even has an exotic fodder plant on its menu: it also eats the leaves of the fuchsia.

Let smaller areas in the garden grow wild. On nettles, thistles and other “weeds”, the caterpillars of the little fox, peacock butterfly, admiral, C-butterfly, painted lady and maps feel like they are in the land of plenty. Native shrubs and trees are particularly important for our moths. They provide food, a resting place and protection from rain, wind and cold. The caterpillars of the lemon moth live on buckthorn or buckthorn, those of the tree white butterfly on apple, sloe or hawthorn, and the caterpillars of the great blue butterfly get their fill on the gray willow. Ninety percent of the leaves of exotic plants are left untouched because they are inedible for caterpillars.

Have winter spots ready

Protecting butterflies in the garden means thinking about the moths even in winter. Some survive the cold season as a pupa on a branch or leaf. Don’t rake away all the fallen leaves and leave piles of brushwood lying around. Here pupae could hibernate, sometimes even a butterfly. The brimstone butterfly is such a survivor. It can withstand up to minus twenty degrees. An antifreeze in his blood will keep him from freezing to death. Peacock butterfly and small fox, on the other hand, cannot tolerate frost. These butterflies look for a protected spot in tool sheds or in attics. When they wake up from their freezing cold in spring, they go out again. Corresponding windows and skylights must then be opened at least a crack.

The beautiful admirals do like the migratory birds. When autumn approaches, they fly south, some even as far as North Africa. But before they start, they like to sit on windfalls in the garden and suck up the sweet fruit juice. Hopefully the apples, pears or plums, which are easy to ferment, will not give them a sweat: they have to stay on course on their long, arduous journey.

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