Attracting butterflies to your yard starts with the right plants, experts say.
Plants that butterflies like fall into two categories: nectar plants and host plants. Nectar plants provide food for adult butterflies. Host plants provide a place for females to lay their eggs and food for the caterpillars that emerge.
A wide range of plants provide nectar. Examples are butterfly bushes, purple coneflowers, phlox, bluets, asters, black-eyed Susans, clover, lilacs, dandelions, goldenrod and joe-pye weed.
Butterflies are choosier about where they lay their eggs. Some species will use just a few types of plants as hosts; others will use only one.
Monarchs will lay their eggs only on milkweed. Host plants that attract other kinds of butterflies include various grasses and herbs, clover, violets, thistles, nettles, spicebush and sheep sorrel.
More complete lists of nectar and host plants are at www.monarchwatch.org/garden.
Other tips for creating a butterfly habitat:
• Avoid using pesticides, especially in the vicinity of the butterfly garden.
• If possible, choose an area that’s sheltered from the wind by a fence, hedge or other means.
• Consider adding a small pit of wet sand, where male butterflies can “puddle” — suck up water that contains the dissolved mineral salts they need for sperm production.
• Provide a place out of the wind where butterflies can bask to warm their flight muscles. That could be as simple as an evergreen or some sheltered rocks.
Sources: Lake Metroparks; MonarchWatch.org; Richard Hesterberg, former curator of the Butterfly Conservatory at Cypress Gardens; naturalist Mike Greene, Metro Parks, Serving Summit County.