Butterflies play a critical role in maintaining the health of our environment. They help pollinate fruits, flowers and vegetables; provide food for other animals; and enchant children and adults alike with their beauty and flight. But like many other creatures, more and more butterflies are becoming endangered as the wild places they inhabit are lost to development or as they fall victim to pesticides.
Here's what you can do to help bring the butterflies back:
- Garden for wildlife. Grow plants butterfly caterpillars like to eat. In many cases, these will be plants that are native to your region; they'll attract native butterflies as well. Consult local gardening directories or contact your nearest agricultural extension agent for planting recommendations.
- Choose nectar-rich plants. Fill your garden not only with plants caterpillars will want to eat, but also with those from which butterflies can drink. Options include buddleia, heliotrope, milkweed, mint, verbena, and zinnias.
- Build a house. If your yard doesn't provide enough dense foliage to allow butterflies to hibernate and nest, build them a box they can use that offers protection from predators and harsh weather. The interior walls of the box should be rough enough to allow butterflies to grab a foothold. Scatter small twigs and leaves inside to promote hibernation and egg laying, and include thin vertical slats on the front to allow the butterflies to enter and exit. Make sure the box is hung no more than four feet above the ground and has a south or southwest exposure.
- Put out some water. A shallow dish or birdbath will provide the moisture butterflies need to thrive.
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