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Butterflies for Your Gardens

By Jean Longo-Anderson, Gardening for all seasons
Attracting butterflies to your gardens is very easy. To attract butterflies, all you will need are beautiful plants, a sunny spot near shrubs and a mud puddle.

The eastern black swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes) is one of the more commonly found butterflies in our area of the United States. We have had so many caterpillars invading our area of the country this spring eating our tree leaves, but this is not one of them. If you see a two-inch white to leaf-green caterpillar with black bands broken in segments by yellow or red-orange spots, this is a "good" caterpillar and it will turn into a beautiful butterfly. It loves the nectar of Queen Anne's lace, carrot plants, parsley, phlox, and milkweed plants. It likes open spaces including gardens, farmland meadows and the banks of watercourses and can be seen around here in late spring to early autumn.

There are lots of other beautiful butterflies in our area and you can attract them by planting some of their favorite plants and giving them a friendly and safe habitant to hang out in. Shrubs or trees are great for protection from wind gusts, which they don't care for. A beautiful perennial or herb garden nearby with their favorite nectar plants include: Catnip, common milkweed, meadowsweet, pickerelweed (a cordata), Queen Anne's lace, spotted knapweed (a centaurea), purple loosestrife (yes, the one that grows wild in our swamp areas that is taking over), common boneset and spotted joe-pye-weed (eupatoriums), lance-leaved goldenrod (I just sneezed), and asters (an annual and there is a fall aster). Other good but not so popular nectar plants include: bee balm, butterfly bush, cosmos, cone flowers, lilac, marigold, sunflower, sweet pea, verbena and zinnias. Lastly, a "mud puddle" of sorts is highly recommended so that the mostly males can gather and drink. Mud can also be made from sand. The females spend their time searching for food plants to feed immature caterpillars and to lay their eggs on. Reference.

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