How to Grow a Successful Butterfly and Pollinator Garden ( and why our lives depend on it )

“Conserving butterflies will improve our whole environment for wildlife and enrich the lives of people now and in the future.” – Butterfly Conservation

Who doesn’t love Butterflies? No one that’s who! Humans have celebrated butterflies since the beginning of gardens. I’m sure most of us have fond memories of having a butterfly garden as a child. A few years ago my son and I collected Caterpillars from our Crown Flower (milkweed) bush and fed them big, juicy leaves until they spun their Cocoon and metamorphosed into a beautiful butterfly. We got to hold it until it fluttered away in search of flowers. I can still see their offspring floating around on the breeze outside my window.

Want to start a Flutter Farm of your own? I’ll show you how.

Ever wonder what makes Butterflies so special? I’ll tell you why. 

Celebrate National Pollinator week on June 20-26, 2016 with us and be an important connector in a thriving ecological web.

Frillary Butterfly

Did You Know?

Here’s 5 Fun Fluttering Facts About Butterflies that you may have never known…

  1. Butterflies can’t hear, but they can feel vibrations.
  2. Butterflies taste with their feet & smell with their antennae.
  3. Some butterfly species lay their eggs on only one type of plant.
  4. Butterflies don’t have lungs. They breath through openings on their abdomen called ‘spiracles’.
  5. Despite popular belief, butterfly wings are clear – the colors and patterns we see are made by the reflection of the tiny scales covering them.

Their Place in the Web of Life

Other than being beautiful and a symbol of inspiration and joy for many, Butterflies are one of the main Pollinator species that encourage plants to make fruits, vegetables, and seeds.

Nearly 90 percent of all plants need a pollinator to reproduce. The role of the butterfly becomes even more vital as we see the bee populations dropping. Without these wonderful insects, many plant species would then be unable to reproduce. Plant populations, and food production would dramatically decrease without the butterfly’s presence. This loss of plant and pollinator life would be felt earth wide by both animals and humans.

Butterflies also provide assistance for genetic variation in the plant species they that they collect nectar from. Many species of butterfly migrate over long distances, which allows pollen to be shared across groups of plants that live far apart from one another. This helps plants to be more resilient against disease and gives them a better chance at survival. Butterflies make champions out of plants!

Meet Hawaii’s Butterflies

There are a few species that I’m sure you’ve seen fluttering around the gardens and fields. Can you name them? If not I’ll be happy to introduce you.

Here are 3 very common Butterflies and their plant counterparts. These plants are special to these specific species, so if you want to see those Flutterbys more often then scoop up these plants at the nursery and plant them in your yard.

Gulf Fritillary Butterfly

The Gulf Fritillary Butterfly can be found flittering from flower to flower of the Lilikoi ( Passion Flower ) Vine. It is on this vine exclusively that they lay their eggs. You’ll also spot them on the mountain trails sipping the nectar of a wide range of flower species including native flowers such as lehua, ‘ilima and ilie’e.

Chinese Swallowtail

The Chinese Swallowtail Butterfly thrive when there are a host of Citrus plants around. The caterpillars often resemble bird poo so be careful when harvesting fruit! The Insect Hormones page states:  “The swallowtail butterfly, Papilio xuthus, passes through 5 larval stages (“instars”) growing larger after each molt. The first four larval stages resemble bird droppings looking like brown fecal matter with a whitish paste of uric acid (which is the nitrogenous waste of birds).”

Monarch Butterfly

In the mid 1800’s the milkweed plant or Crownflower  (one of the Monarch’s host plants), Calotropis gigantea, was introduced to the islands. Shortly thereafter the monarch was detected in the Hawaiian islands. The eggs probably hitched a ride on the plants leaves. Today these Butteflies can be found in gardens across the islands.

Threats to Butterflies

Habit change and loss as well as climate change are the Butterflies biggest threats today. These exquisite insects are incredibly sensitive to these changes.  This sensitivity, though useful for monitoring the health of our ecosystems, is a downfall for the survival of many species. An abundance of Butterflies indicates a healthy ecosystem, but if there is a subtle change in the environment, it can trigger an extreme drop in the butterfly population. 

Monarch butterflies, in particular, are suffering from these threats. Their population has fallen by 90 percent. The World Wildlife Fund and other organizations have come together and determined that the loss of the milkweed plant this species feeds on is the reason for the drastic decline. Interestingly, the expansion of genetically modified crops across North America has been linked to the devastation of milkweed.

How You Can Help

Like bees, butterflies populations can also be harmed by pesticides. A great way to help these insects survive is to eat more organic foods, avoid pesticides in your personal landscaping ( we have pesticide free amendments available at the nursery ), and start cultivating milkweed and other nectar plants in your own garden

Here’s a list of local plants and trees that you can plant to create your own Pollinator Garden.

 

Celebrate Pollinator Week with Pollinator Plants 

We are giving away FREE Lilikoi Plants! (1)

We are giving away a FREE Lilikoi Plant this week in honor of National Pollinator Week. Sign up to win one here.

Let’s get out there and plant some trees and flowers that will not only attract these Flutterfull creatures but encourage them to lay eggs and give them a safe home for their offspring. In doing so we create a lasting legacy for our planet and generations to come.

Caterpillar

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