Butterfly Gardening

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Butterfly Gardening

Butterflies, those fragile creatures of the air, are among Nature’s most exquisite creations. In the web of life, they play an important role as pollinators; their presence is also an indicator of the ecological health of a particular habitat. Now comes a new twist to gardening. Butterfly gardens!

What is a butterfly garden?
A butterfly garden is just what it sounds like, a green, flowering space filled with colourful, flapping wings! Simply put, creating a butterfly garden involves growing plants and flowers that butterflies find attractive. It’s a growing trend known as wildlife gardening.

Why do people like butterfly gardens?
We suspect many people would try their hand at a butterfly garden just for the pure pleasure of gazing upon these beauties. There are others who will spend hours taking photographs of butterflies, learning over time to identify hundreds of species. Those with a bent for conservation may feel they are doing their bit for Mother Earth. By growing native plants, they may attract rare or dwindling species and help increase their numbers. Some gardens work with scientists to tag, and thereby monitor, the population and migratory paths of butterfly species like the Monarch.

Problems you may encounter with a butterfly garden
Every joy comes with a down side and so it is with butterfly gardens. Butterflies have their ‘enemies,’ predators like wasps, spiders, ants, flies and mantids. One way to control them is with traps. Do not use pesticides; they will kill off butterfly larvae, spelling the end of your garden.

Butterflies get sick too, with bacterial and viral infections. If pesticides are not being used, plants may fall prey to true bugs and aphids. Some solutions involve releasing ladybugs to eat up aphids and rinsing pest-infested plants with a mild solution of water and a bleach-free, dishwashing detergent solution (remember to shift caterpillars elsewhere before rinsing).

In a small set-up, larvae can munch through the food available before metamorphosis happens, a common issue with Monarch butterflies. Savvy gardeners often place a pumpkin slice to supplement the larvae’s usual diet.
  
Butterfly attracting plants
Some of the plants that attract butterflies are milkweed, honeysuckle, daisies, sunflowers, lavender, yellow sage, marigold, hibiscus and day lilies. To get a great butterfly gardening going, it’s important to have a wide range of plants. Explore your locality and identify the butterflies that frequent it. Find out which plant species they use for making nectar. Armed with sufficient information, it’s easier to decide which flowers to plant.

Butterfly gardening adds another dimension to an age old hobby. It is yet another joyful way to connect to nature.

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