Those who garden with native plants are aware that natives attract a remarkable number of pollinators. Butterlies get most of the attention with their bright colors and sun-loving ways, but a variety of beautiful moths can be supported as well. While not all moth are pollinators, they do have unique realtionships with native plants, and provide an important food source for birds as well.
If you want to see more of both butterflies and moths (Lepidoptera) in your yard, the addition of specific host plants is an empowering way to take an active role in supporting species diversity.
Some Lepidoptera deposit their eggs on one kind of plant to the exclusion of others – as is the case with Monarch butterflies and milkweeds. Not all Lepidoptera are entirely exclusive when it comes to which plants should host their eggs, but many have clear preferences.
We’ve been conditioned to think of caterpillers and other crawling creatures as “pests,” but those feelings of alarm upon seeing caterpillars on our favorite plants can easily change to excitement and appreciation. Let curiousity and knowledge be your guide! The caterpillars of moths and butterflies are needed and sought by many birds as an extremely important food for their young nestlings. Becoming aware of our yards’ inhabitants and their needs can inform our gardening choices and help create a more caterpillar-friendly environment. Many butterflies, moths and other pollinators overwinter in the leaves and spent plant material. Raking the ground clean around shrubs and in garden beds may destroy the hibernation environment for the very life that you are trying to support. Adopt a more tolerant approach to debris and spent plant material in the garden in order to support lepidoptera.
Habitat & Range
The likelihood of seeing certain species of lepidoptera can be limited due to stringent habitat requirements or range. On the other hand there are many butterflies and moths that range far and wide, and are easily supported, even in urban areas. The resources below include links to information about habitat and range.
Our Plants and Pollinators Chart highlights many host plants within a comprehensive report of pollinator favorites…
|FLOWERS||BUTTERFLIES & MOTHS|
|Asclepias sp.,||Monarch, Queen|
|Aster sp., Asters||Pearl Crescent, Checkerspots|
|Baptisia australis, Blue False Indigo||Wild Indigo Duskywing|
|Callirhoe involucrata, Purple Poppy Mallow||Gray Hairstreak|
|Cassia hebecarpa, Wild Senna||Cloudless Sulphur, Sleepy Orange, Orange-Barred Sulphur|
|Ceanothus americanus, New Jersey Tea||Spring Azure, Summer Azure, Mottled Duskywing|
|Chelone glabra, White Turtlehead||Baltimore Checkerspot|
|Dalea purpurea, Purple Prairie Clover||Southern Dogface|
|Helianthus sp: Sunflowers||American Lady, Silvery Checkerpot, Gorgone Checkerspot|
|Hibiscus palustris, Rose Mallow||Gray Hairstreak, Painted Lady|
|Lupinus perennis, Lupine||Karner Blue, Frosted Elfin, Silvery Blue|
|Rudbeckia hirta, Black Eyed Susan||Gorgone Checkerspot, Silvery Checkerspot|
|Mimulus ringens, Monkeyflower||Common Buckeye, Baltimore Checkerspot|
|Salvia azurea, Blue Sage||Sage Sphinx moth|
|Verbena hastata, Blue Vervain||Common Buckeye|
|Vernonia fasciculata, Ironweed||American Lady, Painted Lady|
|Viola sp., Labrador Violet||Various fritillaries|
|Zizia aurea, Golden Alexanders||Black Swallowtail|
|Andropogon gerardii, Big Bluestem||Delaware Skipper, DustedSkipper, Common Wood Nymph|
|Bouteloua curtipendula, Sideoats Grama||Various skippers|
|Elymus Canadensis, Canada Wild Rye||Zabulon Skipper|
|Panicum virgatum, Switchgrass||Delaware Skipper; Dotted Skipper|
|Schizachyrium scoparium, Little Bluestem||Ottoe Skipper, Indian Skipper, Crossline Skipper, Dusted Skipper, Dixie Skipper; Cobweb Butterfly|
|SHRUBS & VINES|
|Cornus sericea, Red Twig Dogwood||Spring Azure|
|Diervilla lonicera, Northern Bush Honeysuckle||Hummingbird Clearwing, Snowberry Clearwing|
|Prunus virginiana, Chokecherry||Red Spotted Purple, Coral Hairstreak, Hummingbird Clearwing, Snowberry Clearwing, Io moth|
|Rosa sp. – Carolina Rose, Meadow Rose||Apple Sphinx moth|
|Salix discolor, Pussy Willow||Io moth, Polyphemus moths, Mourning Cloak, Viceroy|
|Symphoricarpos albus, White Snowberry||Hummingbird Clearwing, Snowberry Clearwing|
|Spiraea tomentosa, Steeplebush||Columbia Silkmoth|
|Viburnum sp., Nannyberry, Highbush Cranberry||Spring Azure, Summer Azure, Hummingbird Clearwing|
Additional Resources and Information
Which butterflies inhabit your area?
Here is a handy tool that lets you see a list of butterflies which are known to be found in your state. Easy to use, just click on your state: http://www.thebutterflysite.com/butterfly-gardening-by-area.shtml
Identify butterflies and moths and learn ALL about them.
To learn more about particular butterfly species – such as habitat, range, additional host plants, nectar plants and more – visit ButterfliesandMoths.org. http://www.butterfliesandmoths.org/species_search
MUST read: “Bringing Nature Home”
“Bringing Nature Home” by Douglas Tallamy is an inspiring, empowering book for anyone interested gardening. Thorough and reader-friendly, this book is packed with information about sustaining wildlife with native plants. If you have a yard, this book is for you. http://www.bringingnaturehome.net