How to attract butterflies to visit your garden

  • November 24, 2013 · 3:00 PM
  • This location is shown only to members

The meeting on Sunday, November 24 will be held in Peter and Suzanne's spacious (36'x60') screened butterfly enclosure in their Naples garden. While we sit and stroll and talk and eat and drink, we can be watching several species of butterfly flutter by within the enclosure. Peter is breeding these beautiful "flying flowers" and caterpillars in the enclosure, safe from the predators outside, then releasing them into nature. At this event you'll learn which garden plants attract which native Florida butterflies. These photos, and the many others in the album titled Butterflies breeding in Peter and Suzanne's screened enclosure were all taken in the enclosure.

In general, butterflies can feed on the nectar of almost any flowers. But each species of caterpillar typically can eat the leaves of only one specific plant. For example, most gardeners know that the caterpillars of monarch butterflies feed only on the leaves of milkweeds. That's why butterflies lay their eggs only on the leaves of the plant their caterpillars will eat. (The female "tastes" the plant with her feet to confirm it's the right plant before laying her eggs.) Those are the plants that will attract the adults to your garden. Those who attend this meeting will be given brief lists of the most common local butterflies, along with the plants their caterpillars eat. If you want the complete eight-page list Peter compiled, you'll find a PDF file titled Butterfly caterpillars and their larval plants in the web site's Files pages.

Peter has planted many of these larval food plants, both within the screened enclosure and in the garden outside the enclosure. The photo above shows a giant swallowtail butterfly laying her eggs on our key lime tree. After butterflies visiting the garden lay their eggs on the plants outside, the caterpillars hatch out and start eating those leaves. Peter then gently collects the caterpillars and re-homes them onto the same species of plants inside the enclosure. That's where they eat and fatten up until they're mature enough to change and create their chrysalis (cocoon).

When the butterflies emerge from the chrysalis, they're free to fly all around the screened enclosure, with no danger of being eaten by the birds and other predators outside their safe home. They dine on the nectar of many flowers in their home, meet and mate with others of their own species, and lay eggs on their favorite plants to create the next generation. During this meeting members can get close-up views of the eggs, caterpillars, chrysalises and adult butterflies of whichever species are breeding in the enclosure at the time. The photo above shows a dozen monarch caterpillars devouring the leaves of a giant milkweed. The photo below shows the lovely chrysalis of one of those caterpillars.

You're likely to see male butterflies courting females by fluttering all around them, and wafting their sexual pheromones on them to entice them to mate. Butterflies happen to mate tail-to-tail for a good length of time. (Two couples are shown mating below.) If one of them decides to fly during the mating, he or she carries the other aloft, still in mating position. This lends new meaning to the old airline ads, advising everyone to "Fly United."

As usual at these meetings, Suzanne will provide some home-baked foods and beverages to help stimulate lively conversations. Members can supplement these refreshments by bringing along their favorite snacks and drinks to share with others. Members can also bring their excess garden plants for the free plant-exchange table. Those who do can take home other plants for their own gardens. Gardeners tend to be very generous when offering plants to others.

Please let Peter and Suzanne know whether you can or can't attend this event. You can submit your intent on line by scrolling up to the RSVP link near the upper right corner of the screen, and selecting Yes or No. These free meetings are open to all gardeners, so you can invite interested friends and neighbors to come along. If you do, please include the number when you submit your RSVP. We hope to meet at this event many of the new members who recently joined the club, and to see you there as well.


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  • Linda M.

    Lots of great information and I loved the creative creation of the ponds and the butterfly garden inside the lanaii!

    November 27, 2013

  • Howard and Joyce W.

    Peter was very interesting and informative. We loved Suzanne's fruit bread and candied citrus skins. Looking forward to the recipes. Thanks for hosting us and leading our group.

    2 · November 27, 2013

  • Missi

    BAHHH!! I have family visiting from Austin & Russia & I totally forgot today was Sunday (in vacation all week)!! I'm soon disappointed I missed this! So sorry :(

    November 24, 2013

    • Leah R.

      You were missed!

      November 24, 2013

    • Missi

      & I miss my gardening friends!! :( :( :(

      November 25, 2013

  • Matt

    A terrific meeting with lots of great information.

    November 24, 2013

  • barbara k.

    Loved meeting such interesting and inspired people. Peter and Suzanne were such wonderful hosts.

    November 24, 2013

  • Margaret & Karl K.

    We always learn so much. It was wonderful.

    November 24, 2013

  • barbara k.

    I would be honored to attend this event.

    1 · November 19, 2013

  • Debbie

    My dad introduced me to butterfly gardening so I am bringing him to this meetup.

    1 · November 19, 2013

  • lindsey

    I live in a condo but I have milkweed and pipeline growing outside...I have monarchs, zebras and an occasional queen and gulf fritillary.

    1 · November 18, 2013

  • Margaret & Karl K.

    Pretty pollinators

    1 · November 18, 2013

  • Leah R.

    Fingers crossed that we have a nice sunny day and will see lots of Lepidoptera ☺

    3 · November 11, 2013

    • Suzanne and P.

      The population of each species of butterfly we're raising waxes and wanes, Leah, because we release the butterflies when we have enough to maintain a breeding stock. We won't know which species will be flying in the enclosure during this meeting until November 24, but you're sure to see some beauties.

      November 11, 2013

  • Mary N.

    Beautiful pictures...I'm really looking forward to this garden tour.

    1 · November 11, 2013

  • Matt

    I'm very interested to see butterflies of Southwest Florida and how they differ from butterflies in the north. I'm looking forward to the event.

    1 · November 11, 2013

  • Jackie R.

    I love butterflies and know I will learn about new plants and butterflies. Thank you for hosting this event.

    2 · November 11, 2013

  • frany

    can't wait for this event. I'm looking forward to learning what are the names of the butterflies that visit my garden. And to see Peter and Suzannes home is a plus.

    1 · October 29, 2013

    • Suzanne and P.

      Check out the photo album of butterflies breeding in our screened enclosure, Frances, to see if you recognize the butterflies in your garden. The album is at http://meetup.com/Flo...­.

      1 · October 29, 2013

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