Beckon Beneficial Butterflies
If you garden, they will come.
A mass of Monarch butterflies congregates during migration.
Sheila Boone is on a timely mission: She wants to help the Western Monarch.
Butterflies like the Western Monarch have received a lot of attention in recent years, but many other butterfly species throughout North America need your help. Reason: According to the American Farmland Trust, rural land in North America is falling to development at the rate of 3,000 acres every day. This profound habitat loss makes it harder for butterflies to find food and host plants critical to their survival, especially as they travel thousands of migratory miles.
Whether you live on a farm, or in a small town or suburb, with a little effort you can make an immediate difference. Here are a few practical tips for starting a butterfly garden or improving your current one.
On a wing and a prayer
“There is a worldwide pollination crisis, and I believe that the Monarch has become an ambassador for that issue,” says Boone, fifth great-granddaughter of Daniel Boone. Boone is founder of the Daniel Boone Butterfly Palace, which will be a live butterfly conservatory on the California Coast, where the Western Monarch’s overwintering habitats are located.
According to the Pollinator Partnership, the world is losing pollinators, which include butterflies, at an alarming rate. This loss is partic-ularly important to people because nearly 80 percent of the world’s food and fiber crops require pollination.
Historically, America’s farmers and gardeners have depended on butterflies to help pollinate their crops, but they did little to attract or nurture the delicate creatures.
That’s all changed today as gardening for the benefit of butterflies has been recognized for its importance.
“People are thinking more about nature and saving our environment. We receive a lot of questions about butterfly gardening,” says June Hutson, supervisor of the Kemper Home Demonstration Gardens, at the Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis.
Why bother with butterflies?
Butterflies flitting in a sun-drenched flower bed uplift people’s spirits and bring a smile. For many, the butterfly has great personal meaning as a symbol of hope, restoration and renewal.
You might already have winged visitors to your gardens and meadows. What makes butterfly gardening special is that the gardener consciously caters to the needs of a butterfly throughout its life cycle.
Butterfly gardening lets you observe firsthand the amazing transformation of egg to caterpillar to free-fluttering adult butterfly. It’s a relaxing hobby to identify butterflies as they visit nectar-bearing flowers and other enticing plants that you’ve thoughtfully planted. Some butterflies may spend their entire lives on your property.
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