Natural meadows have almost disappeared from our cities and suburbs. Gone too are the butterflies, birds and other wildlife that depend on this natural habitat. Luckily, butterflies are easily enticed back to the city. It is simple to plant a garden that provides caterpillars with plants to feed on and butterflies with flowers from which they can sip nectar. Creating and restoring butterfly habitats will also provide you and your family with a unique opportunity to observe butterflies close to home. Chances are some of the plants that already grow in your garden or back yard can be used, and with a bit of planning additional butterfly friendly plants can be added in the spring.
Natural meadows have almost disappeared from our cities and suburbs. Gone too are the butterflies, birds and other wildlife that depend on this natural habitat. Luckily, butterflies are easily enticed back to the city. It is simple to plant a garden that provides caterpillars with plants to feed on and butterflies with flowers from which they can sip nectar. Creating and restoring butterfly habitats will also provide you and your family with a unique opportunity to observe butterflies close to home. Chances are some of the plants that already grow in your garden or back yard can be used, and with a bit of planning additional butterfly friendly plants can be added in the spring.

© 2008, CHIN-Canadian Heritage Information Network. All Rights Reserved.

The ideal location for a butterfly garden is a large, open, wildflower-filled meadow that is basking in the sun and shielded from strong winds.Unfortunately it is impossible for the majority of Canadians to recreate these exact conditions, however it is important to try and provide for a few basic requirements in your butterfly gardens;

Sunshine: Butterflies love the sun. A site with good exposure is more likely to attract butterflies and keep them around. A few large stones to capture heat and provide basking spots are also a good addition. 


Shelter from the wind: Butterflies rarely fly during strong winds and it will be difficult for them to feed on all the great food plants you provide if they are exposed to wind. It may be helpful to establish your garden in the shelter of hedges or shrubs, some of which may be good larval food plants (check the lists below). 


Water and minerals: Butterflies also need to drink, which is how they get minerals. They often drink from muddy puddles. A patch damp soil, sand, or Read More

The ideal location for a butterfly garden is a large, open, wildflower-filled meadow that is basking in the sun and shielded from strong winds.Unfortunately it is impossible for the majority of Canadians to recreate these exact conditions, however it is important to try and provide for a few basic requirements in your butterfly gardens;

Sunshine: Butterflies love the sun. A site with good exposure is more likely to attract butterflies and keep them around. A few large stones to capture heat and provide basking spots are also a good addition. 


Shelter from the wind: Butterflies rarely fly during strong winds and it will be difficult for them to feed on all the great food plants you provide if they are exposed to wind. It may be helpful to establish your garden in the shelter of hedges or shrubs, some of which may be good larval food plants (check the lists below). 


Water and minerals: Butterflies also need to drink, which is how they get minerals. They often drink from muddy puddles. A patch damp soil, sand, or manure will easily satisfy this requirement. Perhaps you can create a small mud puddle in your sandbox? 


A pesticide free environment: Although some people may find chemical pesticides an easy way to get rid of unwanted insects and weeds, unfortunately these will also prevent friendly insects like butterflies from establishing themselves in your garden. For more information on organic gardening and alternatives to chemical pesticides you can visit this organic gardening directory: http://www.biodynamics.com/


© 2008, CHIN-Canadian Heritage Information Network. All Rights Reserved.

In order to attract butterflies to your garden, plant selection is very important. Butterflies need their respective plants to ensure successful butterfly gardening. As a general rule, caterpillars are very specific in regards to host plants, but adults are often more general and feed on the nectar of a variety of flowers. If you want to attract a specific species, the best approach is to supply larval host plants. By supplying host plants and nectar plants for both caterpillars and adults, you can help to maintain butterfly populations in your area.

Nectar plants are common flowering plants. Butterflies obtain most of their food from these. When planting nectar sources it is important to consider when they will be flowering and to plan on having nectar sources available throughout the growing season. You may also want to minimize your use of hybrid garden plants such as roses, lilies and geraniums as they have almost no nectar. You can choose from both annual and perennial species, as well as shrubs and wildflowers. The best way to ensure frequent butterfly visitors is to plant a diverse garden with a wide variety of nectar sources from herbs, grasses, wildflowers, an Read More
In order to attract butterflies to your garden, plant selection is very important. Butterflies need their respective plants to ensure successful butterfly gardening. As a general rule, caterpillars are very specific in regards to host plants, but adults are often more general and feed on the nectar of a variety of flowers. If you want to attract a specific species, the best approach is to supply larval host plants. By supplying host plants and nectar plants for both caterpillars and adults, you can help to maintain butterfly populations in your area.

Nectar plants are common flowering plants. Butterflies obtain most of their food from these. When planting nectar sources it is important to consider when they will be flowering and to plan on having nectar sources available throughout the growing season. You may also want to minimize your use of hybrid garden plants such as roses, lilies and geraniums as they have almost no nectar. You can choose from both annual and perennial species, as well as shrubs and wildflowers. The best way to ensure frequent butterfly visitors is to plant a diverse garden with a wide variety of nectar sources from herbs, grasses, wildflowers, annuals, perennials and shrubs.

If you intend to attract a more permanent population of butterflies you will also want to include some larval food plants in your garden. Some larval food plants are common Canadian trees and these may already be present in your yard or neighborhood. Other common larval foods are vegetables that you may already have growing in your garden. In this case you may have to share your harvest with caterpillars.

Because Canada is such a large country with so many ecozones specific plant selection will vary from one region to another. Plant suggestions are provided below for four Canadian regions. For more information, visit the Butterflies North and South virtual museum exhibit.

© 2008, CHIN-Canadian Heritage Information Network. All Rights Reserved.

There are several flower species that are excellent general hosts for adult butterflies in Alberta; they include:
Purple coneflower: Echinacea purpurea 
Black-eyed Susan: Rudbeckia hirta Lilac: Syringa spp. Phlox: Phlox divaricata maculata paniculata

The butterflies featured in this table are those featured in the Butterflies North and South Learning Collection. Additional butterflies and their host plants can be found in the Butterflies North and South virtual museum exhibit at: http://www.museevirtuel-virtualmuseum.ca/sgc-cms/expositions-exhibitions/mariposa/english/gardening/index.html

Canadian Tiger Swallowtail- Papilio Canadensis
The Caterpillar host plants of the Canadian Tiger Swallowtail are the Trembling aspen (Populus tremuloides) and the Willow (Salix spp.). In the adult stage the Canadian Tiger Swallowtail’s host plant is the Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale).

Milbert’s Tortois Read More

There are several flower species that are excellent general hosts for adult butterflies in Alberta; they include:

  • Purple coneflower: Echinacea purpurea 
  • Black-eyed Susan: Rudbeckia hirta
  • Lilac: Syringa spp.
  • Phlox: Phlox divaricata maculata paniculata

The butterflies featured in this table are those featured in the Butterflies North and South Learning Collection. Additional butterflies and their host plants can be found in the Butterflies North and South virtual museum exhibit at: http://www.museevirtuel-virtualmuseum.ca/sgc-cms/expositions-exhibitions/mariposa/english/gardening/index.html

Canadian Tiger Swallowtail- Papilio Canadensis
The Caterpillar host plants of the Canadian Tiger Swallowtail are the Trembling aspen (Populus tremuloides) and the Willow (Salix spp.). In the adult stage the Canadian Tiger Swallowtail’s host plant is the Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale).

Milbert’s Tortoise Shell - Nymphalis milberti
The Caterpillar host plants of the Milbert’s Tortoise Shell Butterfy are the Nettle (Urtica spp.), the Sunflower (Helianthus spp.) and the Willow (Salix spp.). In their adult stage the Milbert’s Tortoise Shell Butterflies survive on tree sap.

Northwestern Fritillary - Speyeria hesperis
The Caterpillar host plant of the Northwestern Fritillary Butterfly is the Violet (Viola spp.). In their adult stage their hosts are Yellow composites (Dandelion, etc.) and Thistles (Cirsium spp.).


© 2008, CHIN-Canadian Heritage Information Network. All Rights Reserved.

The butterflies featured in this table are those featured in the Butterflies North and South Learning Collection. Additional butterflies and their host plants can be found in the Butterflies North and South virtual museum exhibit at: http://www.museevirtuel-virtualmuseum.ca/sgc-cms/expositions-exhibitions/mariposa/english/gardening/index.html

Larvae Species

Viceroy - Limenitis archippus
The Viceroy’s Larval Food Plants are Willows (Salix spp.), poplars (Populus spp.), apples (Malus spp.), and Cherry (Prunus spp.).

Arctic Skipper - Carterocephalus palaemon
The Arctic Skipper Butterfly’s Larval Food Plants are Grasses.

Common Wood Nymph - Cercyonis pegala
The Common Wood Nymph Butterfly’s larval food plants are Wild oats (Avena fatua), Purpletop Grass (Tridens flavus), and bluestem (Andropogon spp.).

Bronze Copper - Lycaena hyllus
The Bronze Copper Butterf Read More

The butterflies featured in this table are those featured in the Butterflies North and South Learning Collection. Additional butterflies and their host plants can be found in the Butterflies North and South virtual museum exhibit at: http://www.museevirtuel-virtualmuseum.ca/sgc-cms/expositions-exhibitions/mariposa/english/gardening/index.html

Larvae Species

Viceroy -
Limenitis archippus
The Viceroy’s Larval Food Plants are Willows (Salix spp.), poplars (Populus spp.), apples (Malus spp.), and Cherry (Prunus spp.).

Arctic Skipper - Carterocephalus palaemon
The Arctic Skipper Butterfly’s Larval Food Plants are Grasses.

Common Wood Nymph - Cercyonis pegala
The Common Wood Nymph Butterfly’s larval food plants are Wild oats (Avena fatua), Purpletop Grass (Tridens flavus), and bluestem (Andropogon spp.).

Bronze Copper - Lycaena hyllus
The Bronze Copper Butterfly’s larval food plants are Curled Dock (Rumex crispus), Water Dock (R. orbiculatus), and knotweed (Polygonum spp.).


© 2008, CHIN-Canadian Heritage Information Network. All Rights Reserved.

The butterflies featured in this table are those featured in the Butterflies North and South Learning Collection. Additional butterflies and their host plants can be found in the Butterflies North and South virtual museum exhibit at: http://www.museevirtuel-virtualmuseum.ca/sgc-cms/expositions-exhibitions/mariposa/english/gallery/index.html

Nymphalidae

Mourning Cloak Nymphalis antiopa (Linné)
Host Plants : Willow (Salix spp.), Elm (Ulmus spp.), Poplar (Populus spp.), Birch (Betula spp.), Hackberry tree (Celtis spp.)

Monarch Danaus plexippus (Linné)
Host Plants: Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca ), Weamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata)

Papilionidae

Black Swallowtail Papilio polyxenes asterius (Stoll)
Host Plants: Common Carrot (Daucus carota), Cow-Parsnip (Heracleum maximum)

Pieridae

Clouded Sulphur Colias Read More

The butterflies featured in this table are those featured in the Butterflies North and South Learning Collection. Additional butterflies and their host plants can be found in the Butterflies North and South virtual museum exhibit at: http://www.museevirtuel-virtualmuseum.ca/sgc-cms/expositions-exhibitions/mariposa/english/gallery/index.html

Nymphalidae

Mourning Cloak Nymphalis antiopa (Linné)
Host Plants : Willow (Salix spp.), Elm (Ulmus spp.), Poplar (Populus spp.), Birch (Betula spp.), Hackberry tree (Celtis spp.)

Monarch Danaus plexippus (Linné)
Host Plants: Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca ), Weamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata)

Papilionidae

Black Swallowtail Papilio polyxenes asterius (Stoll)
Host Plants: Common Carrot (Daucus carota), Cow-Parsnip (Heracleum maximum)

Pieridae

Clouded Sulphur Colias philodice philodice (Godart)
Host Plants: Clover (Trifolium spp.), Lupinus spp., Milk Vetch (Astragalus spp.), Alfalfa (Medicago spp.),

Saturniidae

Cecropia Moth Hyalophora cecropia (Linné)
Host Plants: Pin Cherry (Prunus pennsylvanica), Elm (Ulmus spp.), Black Cherry (Prunus serotina), Silver Maple (Acer saccharum), Negondo Maple (Acer negundo)

Sphingidae

Big Poplar Sphinx Pachysphinx modesta (Harris)
Host Plants: Trembling Aspen (Populus tremuloides), Willow (Salix spp.), Yellow Birch (Betula alleghaniensis)


© 2009, CHIN-Canadian Heritage Information Network All Rights Reserved.

The butterflies featured in this table are those featured in the Butterflies North and South Learning Collection. Additional butterflies and their host plants can be found in the Butterflies North and South virtual museum exhibit at: http://www.museevirtuel-virtualmuseum.ca/sgc-cms/expositions-exhibitions/mariposa/english/gallery/index.html

Species

Silvery Blue - Glaucopsyche lygdamus
Caterpillar Host Plant- plants such as vetch (Vicia spp.) & White Clover (Trifolium repens)
Adult Stage Plant Preference - variety of flowers, puddles & other wet areas idea: a bird bath

White Admiral - Limenitis arthemis
Caterpillar Host Plant - birch (Betula spp.), willow (Salix spp.), aspen (Populus spp.)
Adult Stage Plant Preference - rotting fruit, puddles & other wet areas idea: a bird bath


American Copper - Lycaena phlaeas
Caterpillar Host Plant - Sheep Sorrel (R Read More

The butterflies featured in this table are those featured in the Butterflies North and South Learning Collection. Additional butterflies and their host plants can be found in the Butterflies North and South virtual museum exhibit at: http://www.museevirtuel-virtualmuseum.ca/sgc-cms/expositions-exhibitions/mariposa/english/gallery/index.html

Species

Silvery Blue - Glaucopsyche lygdamus
Caterpillar Host Plant- plants such as vetch (Vicia spp.) & White Clover (Trifolium repens)
Adult Stage Plant Preference - variety of flowers, puddles & other wet areas idea: a bird bath

White Admiral - Limenitis arthemis
Caterpillar Host Plant - birch (Betula spp.), willow (Salix spp.), aspen (Populus spp.)
Adult Stage Plant Preference - rotting fruit, puddles & other wet areas idea: a bird bath


American Copper - Lycaena phlaeas
Caterpillar Host Plant - Sheep Sorrel (Rumex acetosella)
Adult Stage Plant Preference - flowers such as goldenrods (note: the American Copper defends its territory & will chase off other butterflies)

Great Spangled Fritillary - Speyeria cybele
Caterpillar Host Plant - violets (Viola spp.)
Adult Stage Plant Preference - avid flower visitor (a favorite being Knapweed / Centaurea nigra)


© 2009, CHIN-Canadian Heritage Information Network. All Rights Reserved.

Learning Objectives


The learner will:
  • Describe plant and butterfly interactions, citing examples
  • Recognize that plant/animal interactions differ between regions
  • Apply knowledge of plant/animal interactions to the creation of a butterfly garden

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