Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Butterfly Gardening In Southern Ontario

'Silvery Blue' butterfly
There is something magical about butterflies. No matter how old we grow they never cease to amaze and delight us. Fortunately there are a few things we all can do to increase the frequency of butterflies in our gardens.

Tips and Facts for Attracting Butterflies to Your Garden:

  • Butterflies require two types of plants, nectar rich plants that serve as a food source for the adult butterfly and host plants that serve as a place to lay their eggs and as food source for their off spring (the caterpillar).
  • Different species of butterflies feed on different nectar rich plants and require different host plants. Find out what butterflies are common in your area then plant the specific nectar rich plants and host plants that are required to attract those species. (See the list at the bottom of the page).
  • Butterflies are attracted to strong fragrances and bright colours; so plant brightly coloured flowers like reds, oranges and purples.
  • Planting a large grouping of one variety is more effective at attracting butterflies then the salt and pepper effect. You can still grow a variety of plants just be sure that each variety has several plants grouped together to form a substantial display of each variety.
  • Do not use pesticides in your garden. Butterflies are very sensitive to the effects of pesticides and its use will greatly reduce butterfly numbers.
  • Butterflies fly best at a body temp of 30-38 degrees Celsius and thus require the sun to warm them-selves so be sure to plant your butterfly garden in a sunny location (an area that receives 5-6 hours of full sun each day), but sheltered from the winds. Placing a few flat stones in a sunny area will further  encourage butterflies to linger in your garden by providing a warm resting place.
  • Include a water source near by for your butterflies. The best source is a mud puddle, as males use mud as a source of minerals and salts, this is called puddling. A sandy bottom hole or dish will also work but the sand must be kept constantly moist.

The photos above depict a few of the butterfly varieties common to southern Ontario
Beginning top left: Silvery Blue, Monarch, Orange Sulphur, Canadian Tiger Swallowtail
Bottom left: Viceroy, Bronze Copper, Mustard White, Aphrodite Fritillary
Below I have provided a list of some of the common butterflies found in Southern Ontario and what their prefered host and nectar plants are, as well as their typical habitat.

American Painted Lady
Everlasting, Daisy, Burdock
Aster, Dogbane, Goldenrod, Mallow, Privet, Vetch
Old fields, roadsides, meadows, and forest clearings
Dogbane, Buddleia
Where milkweed plants and nectar sources are found
Orange Sulphur
Vetch. Alfalfa, Clover
Alfalfa, Aster, Clover, Verbena
Black-eyed Susan
Clover and Alfalfa fields, roadsides, agricultural areas
Tiger Swallowtail
Black Cherry, Birch, Poplar, Willow
Joe Pye Weed, Buddleia
Open woodlands & nearby open spaces, also found north of the tree line and in urban areas
Willow, Poplar, Fruit Trees
Thistle, Beggar-tick, Goldenrod, Milkweed
Wet shrubby areas, especially if willows are found nearby
Bronze Copper                  
Curled Dock Water Dock and knotweed                
Boneset, Swamp milk Weed
Wet meadows, marsh edges, wet roadside ditches
Mustard White                    
Mustard family plants
Rock cress, and toolworth
Mustard family plants
Now mainly associated with rich deciduous woodlands where its preferred food plant, Toothwort, thrives
Silvery Blue   
Cow Vetch, White Sweet Clover, and Alfalfa
Lupine and coneflower
Roadsides, flowery meadows, woodland trails, open woods and shrubby areas. In Ont. found mostly along the Canadian shield.
Juvenal's Duskywing  
Ground Ivy
Wood margins, open oak woods, fields, damp roadsides, and open spaces near woodlands.
Aphrodite Fritillary
Nectar from flowers of milkweed and viper's bugloss
Fields, meadows, wood margins, clearings. It is uncommon in the Ottawa District.

Baltimore Checkerspot
Turtlehead, False Foxglove, Plantain
Milkweed, Viburnum, Wild Rose
wet meadow

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