Reakirt’s Blue Butterfly Laying Eggs on an Illinois Bundleflower
Everyone loves butterflies for their wonderful array of colors and patterns as well as their graceful movements. Images of butterflies have been popular for jewelry, decoration and crafts for centuries. Butterflies undergo an amazing metamorphosis from egg, to caterpillar to beautiful, winged adult. It is possible to plant flowers in a home garden to attract and maintain populations of butterflies for many years to come. The key is to provide appropriate nectar plants for the adult butterflies and include larval host plants for their babies to eat.
Many garden flowers as well as native wildflowers make great nectar plants for butterflies. Zinnia and Scabiosa are garden flowers that are butterfly magnets, and New England Aster, Purple Coneflower, Dwarf Godetia, Gayfeather and Milkweeds are great native plant sources of nectar.
But what are butterfly larval host plants? Each butterfly species chooses specific species of plants to lay their eggs on. These plants are required for the survival of their larvae (caterpillars). After an egg hatches on a host plant, the tiny caterpillar begins to feed on the host plant and get bigger. A caterpillar will undergo 4 to 6 molts (shedding of skin) until they are finished growing. At this point, the caterpillar attaches itself to an object and forms a pupal case. Inside the case, the caterpillar undergoes a transformation into an adult butterfly.
Many people already know that milkweed is the larval host plant for monarch butterflies. However, Applewood Seed carries a large number of host plants (see table below) for many species of butterflies and skippers. Skippers are small butterflies with short fat bodies, hooked antennae, and a rapid, skipping flight pattern. Check out the BugGuide for butterfly identification and species ranges.