Central Texas Butterfly Gardening
Make the Most of Your Natural Setting
- Enhance the glades—this is where butterflies like to feed and interact.
- Leave the old trees and some of the young trees—butterflies like to perch on them and their larvae may use them for food.
- Leave thick brush under some of the trees—this is where butterflies go on a cold day, or when it rains, and this is where the larvae go to pupate.
- Leave some lower dead branches on trees for butterfly perches. Leave dead and hollow stumps for insect refuges.
- Plant a mixture of flowering shrubs and herbs, both native and exotic. Butterflies like edges. Plant low flowers at the edge of a lawn, high flowers at the edge of trees or by a fence. Add some good soil for herbaceous beds.
- Add a seep irrigation system but not a sprinkler system. Sprinkling washes the nectar out of the flowers you have grown for butterfly food.
- No insecticides, herbicides or fungicides can be used in the butterfly garden, near larval foodplants or adult nectar sources. If you have a pest problem, treat it manually. Pick off the unwanted insects or use boiling water on ant nests.
- Do eliminate the fire ants as they are predators on the butterfly larvae. Use the growth hormone treatment, not poisons.
- Wrens are particularly good at finding caterpillars and keeping your butterfly population down, but it is fun to watch them.
- A permanent wet patch or seep with sedges and flowers will attract butterflies.
- A damp sand patch, baited with a small amount of manure, fermenting fruit such as bananas or cantaloupe, or ripe fish will attract butterflies in a puddle assemblage where they will be less wary. These assemblages make observation and photography easy. Red or orange sponges with sugar solution may be suspended from branches as artificial nectar sources when there are few flowers.
Inviting Butterflies to your House
Butterflies will come naturally to your garden and lay their eggs if a suitable foodplant is present. You can accelerate this process by collecting butterflies elsewhere. Confine the butterfly in a large ziploc bag with a small cotton ball, moist with sugar water, and a sprig of foodplant. Place this at a window but not in direct sun. If the foodplant is correct, the butterfly should lay eggs within 4 to 24 hours. If not you need to follow the butterfly in the wild to see where it chooses to lay its eggs. Preferred foodplants may be different from locality to locality. Eggs will hatch in a few days. You can set the eggs out on the foodplant in the garden. Eggs and larvae outside are vulnerable to predation and parasitization. The more you rear inside the more adults you can have in the garden. This is however a lot of hardwork.