The Ultimate Guide to Butterfly Gardening

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail profile

Last week I published the Ultimate Guide to Attracting Native Bees, so I thought this week I’d give you another Ultimate Guide–to attracting more butterflies to your Ecosystem Garden. I found over 60 links to resources for the native bees, and now we’ve got 135 of the best tips to creating an amazing Butterfly Garden!

Butterflies around the country are in danger from habitat loss and pesticide spraying. You have a critical role to play in protecting these beautiful and beneficial pollinators by creating welcoming habitat in your wildlife garden.

Butterfly and Moth Books by Team Members

1. Life Cycles of Butterfliesby Judy Burris and Wayne Richards

For everyone who has ever marveled as a butterfly magically emerges from a chrysalis, this book is a treasure chest of amazing butterfly transformations. You are invited to experience the life cycles of  common backyard butterflies in this unique collection of hundreds of stunning, full-color, up-close photos, all taken in a live garden setting. Each butterfly is shown from start to maturity, with sequential photographs of the egg, caterpillar, chrysalis, and emerging butterfly. This richly visual guide to the life cycles of butterflies will appeal to wildlife enthusiasts, gardeners, teachers, and families alike. This book has earned two national awards from Learning Magazine: Teacher’s Choice Award for “Children’s Books” and Teacher’s Choice Award for “Product of Excellence for the Family”

2. How to Spot Butterfliesby Pat and Clay Sutton

Taking up where field guides leave off, they reveal which habitats are sure to hold large butterfly populations and which specific host plants attract butterflies. They address how to use binoculars and share the secrets of how to approach a butterfly without scaring it off. Environmentally sensitive and unobtrusive observation is emphasized, not outdated netting and collecting. Exceptional nectar sources, which are feeding grounds for vast numbers of butterflies, are described. Full-color photographs appear throughout.

3. Monarch Butterflies: The Last Migrationby Benjamin Vogt

From 1999-2010, milkweed populations shrank 58% in the Midwest as agriculture adopted genetically modifed (GMO) crops that accept mass spraying of weed killer. And from 1999-2010 monarch egg production dropped by 81% in the Midwest. This now threatened insect migration–one of the largest of its kind in the world, stretching from central Mexico to southern Canada–is a calling out to restore native plants and ecosystems. Only 3% of the original tall grass prairie remains as each backyard becomes a 21st century wildlife refuge. Learn about the monarch–its migration and preferred host / nectar plants–and what you can do ensure its survival.

4. Butterfly Field Guideby Judy Burris and Wayne Richards

Enjoy 87 stunning full-color photos of butterflies by national award-winning authors and nature photographers Judy Burris and Wayne & Christina Richards. There are 38 different species showing the opened wings (top view) and the closed wings (underneath view) patterns. Every photo is labeled with the butterfly name and some show how to tell the male from the female. Live butterflies on flowers and in the field will amaze you with their dazzling colors and exquisite details.

5. 50 Beautiful Butterfliesby Judy Burris and Wayne Richards

Enjoy 50 stunning full-color photos of butterflies by national award-winning authors and nature photographers Judy Burris and Wayne & Christina Richards. No text will get in the way of your viewing pleasure of these miraculous creatures. Live butterflies on garden flowers and in tropical conservatories will amaze you with their dazzling colors and exquisite details.

6. 50 Marvelous Mothsby Judy Burris and Wayne Richards

Enjoy 50 stunning full-color photos of moths by national award-winning authors and nature photographers Judy Burris and Wayne & Christina Richards. No text will get in the way of your viewing pleasure of these miraculous creatures. Live moths on garden flowers and in the woods will amaze you with their many different colors and interesting details.

7. What’s That Caterpillar? by Judy Burris and Wayne Richards

Enjoy 52 stunning full-color photos of caterpillars by national award-winning authors and nature photographers Judy Burris and Wayne & Christina Richards. Live caterpillars on garden plants and trees will amaze you with their colors and interesting details. Each photo is labeled with the name of the moth or butterfly that the caterpillar will become. Those that should not be handled with bare hands are also marked.

Butterfly Gardening

H Holm Nectar Plants for Monarchs

Best Native Nectar Plants for Monarchs and Other Butterflies: The best plants for Monarchs and other butterflies, as well as all other wildlife in your garden will be locally native to your area. These native plants have a relationship with wildlife that spans thousands of years, contribute to ecosystem services, and provide multiple functions for many species of wildlife. Many indigenous plants are also larval host plants for many species, and many other insects have a variety of uses for them… ~Carole Sevilla Brown

8. 5 Steps to the Ultimate Butterfly Garden, “When we think of butterfly gardens, we tend to think of lots of nectar plants for adult butterflies, but to have a successful garden for butterflies there is much more to it than that. You need to understand the Life Cycles of Butterflies so that you can plan for all of their needs.” by Carole Sevilla Brown

9. How to Create a Butterfly and Hummingbird Garden “What is a hummingbird garden without the added dazzle of butterflies and moths? Quite simply, plants chosen to attract hummingbirds will often attract butterflies and moths too.” by Pat Sutton

Common Buckeyes in Migration10. Landscape for Wildlife: Butterfly & Moth Design  “Here are landscaping for wildlife resources for butterflies. You can look for resources regionally by going to the Landscape for Wildlife menu. You can also find plants for wildlife resources by going to Regional Plant Lists for Wildlife Resources.” by Kelly Brenner

11. Butterfly Gardening Basics, North American Butterfly Association–explain the concepts and techniques of butterfly gardening applicable throughout the U.S. and southern Canada

12. Attracting Native Pollinators, by Carole Sevilla Brown. A wonderful resource for learning all you need to know about attracting butterflies,native bees, and other pollinators to your wildlife garden

13. Butterfly Habitat Gardening Insights “In the 9 years I’ve obsessively focused on building gardens that attract butterflies, filled with an ever refined pallet of butterfly attracting plants, I have learned through trial and error, through continuing my education and through communicating with other experts that building butterfly habitat and providing for the butterflies’ entire lifecycle is unmistakeably simple.” by Jesse Elwert Peters

14. Attracting Butterflies to Your Ecosystem Garden “Butterflies are like flying jewels, floating and swirling throughout your garden. And the good news is that it’s really quite easy to create habitats for them in your garden. Butterfly gardening is a magical and exciting way to interest your children in the wonders of nature.” by Carole Sevilla Brown

15. Recommended Plantings to Attract Hummingbirds, Butterflies, and Moths“To attract and hold butterflies and hummingbirds a garden needs to offer nectar spring through the first hard frost in late fall. This list shares time of bloom for each of the plants so gardeners can do just that.” by Pat Sutton

Butterfly Bush is Invasive, Do NOT Plant–I’m sure you’ve all read books about butterfly gardening, and almost every one of them recommends Butterfly Bush (Budleia spp). But did you know that Butterfly Bush is a highly invasive plant and is destroying native butterfly and wildlife habitat?

16. Plant Lists for Butterflies “plants lists for wildlife including birds, butterflies pollinators and even mammals.” by Kelly Brenner

17. Butterfly Bushes ≠ More Butterflies “Your goal should be to have butterflies do more than drop your garden by for a quick snack. You want them to make your garden their home so you’ll  need to provide the basics – water, shelter, a place to lay their eggs and food during all stages of a butterfly’s lifecycle.” by Debbie Roberts

18. Create more butterfly habitat through humility “I believe it is that way for everyone I meet. Increasing butterfly habitat by adding host plants is necessary for butterfly preservation. But communicating this sincere desire of mine and need of the butterflies to a friend who lacks information on ecological gardening requires a gentle method and humility.” by Jesse Elwert Peters

19. Butterflies and Butterfly Gardening in the Pacific Northwest An Introduction to Butterflies and Butterfly Gardening in the Pacific Northwest by Mary Kate Woodward covers local butterflies, how to attract them and how to landscape for them. It’s not a large book, topping out at only 104 pages including the index, but it has some good, basic information. The basics of butterfly garden design are covered including not using pesticides, messy landscapes, and plant structures.” by Kelly Brenner

20. Life Cycles of Butterflies in Your Ecosystem Garden, “If you want to have a specific butterfly in your habitat garden, you must provide the host plant that caterpillar needs. The tiny caterpillar will emerge from the egg and start feeding. It will eat until it outgrows its skin, and then shed that skin and eat some more. This continues until the caterpillar reaches full size when it will find a safe place to go into the pupa stage.” by Carole Sevilla Brown

21. Design for Butterflies Resources “Butterflies are a very popular species for gardeners and there are many resources on the subject.” by Kelly Brenner

22. Host Plants for Butterflies “We all know that butterflies need nectar, but if we really want them to stay close to our wildlife gardens, we have to plant host plants for caterpillars. Most butterfly larva are specialists. That means that they will only eat one plant, or plants from just one family. Female butterflies are on a mission to find these specific plants so that they can lay their eggs. If you want her to hang around, you need to put this particular plant in your wildlife garden.” by Carole Sevilla Brown

23. Butterflies and Moths of North America BAMONA aims to fill the needs of scientists and nature observers by bringing verified occurrence and life history data into one accessible location. Citizen scientists are invited to participate by submitting their photographs and observations.

24. Planning a Butterfly Garden “In reflecting on last year’s garden, I have decided that I don’t see enough butterflies.  Sure, they visit the California native perennials on my hillside, but I don’t see a lot of butterfly traffic through my garden.  Why not?  Not enough butterfly friendly plants.” by Kathy Villim

25. Getting Nutrients from the Strangest Places “Male butterflies are known for puddling — gathering salts, amino acids, and other nutrients from moist areas. They do this to help with successful reproduction, transferring some of the nutrients to the female during mating. Sometimes the favored buffet location might be as simple as a damp spot on the ground. But some species have been known to collect nutrients from such lovely things as dead fish carcasses or even dog poop.” by Meredith O’Reilly

26. Butterfly Numbers Plunge by 50% Great tv interview with Pat Sutton about recent butterfly declines, by Carole Sevilla Brown

27. Frasstastic “Much like the soil’s tiny microscopic organisms, native worms, and arthropods that consume organic matter or organic-matter-eating critters and release nutrient-rich wastes, caterpillars’ frass is rich in nutrients that benefit garden plants as the droppings drop and return to the soil. Natural fertilizer, without any effort from me!” by Meredith O’Reilly

28. Black Cherry “Everything about Black Cherry ranks it as one of THE most important native trees for wildlife: (1) more birds feed on the fruits of this native tree than any other, (2) more butterflies and moths lay their eggs on this tree than any other tree, excepting the oaks, and (3) add to this mix its ornamental flower show in the spring.” By Pat Sutton

29. an obsession with butterflies, our long love affair with a singular insect An Obsession With Butterflies: Our Long Love Affair With A Singular Insect by Sharman Apt Russell, is an excellent book for learning about the life history of butterflies from egg through adult.” by Kelly Brenner

30. 5 Books for the Butterfly Garden “Genevieve Schmidt, of North Coast Gardening, has a wonderful series called “5 Books” where she is accumulating a great resource for other book-obsessed people like me. It’s a great resource for all aspects of gardening.So it is my pleasure to present for your enjoyment, 5 Books for the Butterfly Garden” by Carole Sevilla Brown

31. Zoro Garden and Desert Garden, Balboa Park “The Zoro Garden has to take the prize for the most interesting history of a butterfly garden. As with the rest of Balboa Park, which was originally built for the Panama-California Exposition in 1915, it was again used for the California Pacific International Exposition in 1935. During the California Pacific International Exposition, the Zoro Garden was a nudist colony” by Kelly Brenner

32. Tours of Private Butterfly and Wildlife Gardens, with Pat Sutton

Milkweed and Monarchs

CM Monarch33. Butterfly Gardening for Monarchs: Got Milkweed? “Every year 100 million Monarch butterflies make an extraordinary journey, some of them traveling all the way from Canada to the Transvolcanic Mountains in Mexico, where they will spend the winter. In the spring they will mate and head north once again. The female will fly until she locates a patch of milkweed (Asclepius), then lays her eggs and dies.” by Carole Sevilla Brown

34. Milkweed for Monarchs “There are over 2,000 species of milkweed in the world. 108-110 milkweed species are native to North America. ONLY 27 of these are used by Monarchs as host plants. Those of us wishing to create Monarch Waystations  full of nectar and caterpillar plants need to do our homework to learn which native milkweeds Monarchs will lay their eggs on. Planting species native to your region is key.” by Pat Sutton

35. Milkweeds and Their Associated Insects “Monarch butterflies are the insect most frequently associated with Milkweed (Asclepias) species as a larval host. There are other insects who take advantage of the milky sap, or develop ways to ‘eat around’ the sap in order to consume Milkweed leaves.” by Heather Holm

36. Journey North Citizen scientists track the monarch butterfly migration each fall and spring as the monarchs travel to and from Mexico. Report your own observations of migrating butterflies to real-time migration maps.

37. Can Milkweed be Bad for Monarchs “It caused a great deal of confusion this week when our teammate  wrote about her visit to a Monarch Butterfly wintering site in California that the docents there had said that experts had advised them to remove all of the milkweed that had been planted at this overwintering site because it was disrupting the migratory cycle. Really? Remove the milkweed?” by Carole Sevilla Brown

38. Building Monarch Butterfly Habitat at the Farm “It occured to me it’d be lovely to begin spring with a wildflower seed sowing project. Earlier this winter, I was lucky to participate in seed sowing at my organic farmer friend’s home in Saratoga. After that wildflower seed sowing event, I still had some Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) leftover, which is quintessential Monarch butterfly host plant: the only family of plants that Monarch caterpillars can eat.” by Jesse Elwert Peters

39. Amazing Monarch Migration Phenomenon “On September 18th there was an estimated half million Monarch butterflies in Cape May, NJ.The team of researchers from the Monarch Monitoring Project had been noticing extremely high numbers of Monarchs all day, and they had tagged many of these butterflies as part of their ongoing project” by Carole Sevilla Brown

40. Monarch Monitoring Project, Cape May

41. Tattered, Torn but Still Tasty The plant is stressed, and covered with aphids as a result. Cleaning up after the storm, I was sorely tempted to cut the stems right to the ground and be done with it til spring. It sure would have looked a lot neater…But, if you look a little closer (OK, you might have to zoom in and squint hard), you’ll see no less than 4 good-sized monarch butterfly caterpillars working this plant, plus an adult monarch butterfly” by Ellen Sousa

42. Certified Monarch Waystation “They face many perils along this journey as well as in their wintering homes. Here, they are in danger from habitat loss, pesticides  and genetically modified crops. In Mexico logging and destruction of the forests where they spend the winter is a major concern. And that’s where your garden comes in. Your butterfly garden can play a crucial role in ensuring their success in this long migration.” by Carole Sevilla Brown

43.  Monarch Butterfly Conservation, Xerxes Society

44. I’m Ready, Are You? “And when did the first monarch enter the garden?  This past weekend.  Now we just have to hope there will be more monarchs laying eggs on the milkweed.  I will know when I see the lovely yellow, black and white caterpillars chomping on the leaves.” by Donna Donabella

45. Monarch Butterfly “The most beloved and best known butterfly in North America is, without doubt, the monarch butterfly. However, people often mistake other orange and black butterflies, such as viceroys and queens, for monarchs.” by Beatriz Moisset

46. Monarchs Need Milkweed! “Anybody recognize this strange-looking life form? A wad of chewing gum? Plastic toy? Alien? Believe it or not, in just a few days, this odd creature with glowing yellow and black dots will turn into a beautiful monarch butterfly! If you live on the east or west American coast, just by planting any type of milkweed plants in your garden or yard, you can help these butterflies avoid extinction!” by Ellen Sousa

47. Do Monarch Caterpillars Eat Anything Besides Milkweed? “Are we now to think that Monarch caterpillars eat tomato plants because we have found a chrysalis there? Actually, no. Monarch caterpillars do only eat plants in the Milkweed family, so if we want to help them out in our wildlife gardens, we still need to add these plants to our gardens.” by Carole Sevilla Brown

48. Monarchs and their Enemies “Are monarchs completely free from enemies, then? Not so, there are exceptions. A number of predators and parasites have also become tolerant or immune to the cardenolides. Thus, they can feed on monarchs with relative impunity.” by Beatriz Moisset

49. Ever Seen a Monarch’s Heartbeat? Neither had I. But I found this cool video showing a beating heart in a Monarch caterpillar. Plus some tips on attracting Monarch Butterflies to your Ecosystem Garden, by Carole Sevilla Brown

50. The Monarch Monitoring Project “Hundreds of thousands of Monarch butterflies migrate through Cape May, NJ every year, and thousands of people come from around the world to see them. This spectacle is an amazing phenomenon, but also one which raises a lot of questions.” by Carole Sevilla Brown

51. Monarchs of the West “Much less is known about the winter migration of the Monarchs on the West Coast of North America.  Researchers believe that they do not overwinter in Central Mexico and that these Monarchs stay west of the Rockies. While they are the same species (Danaus plexippus), they never meet their east coast cousins.” by Kathy Villim

52. Monarch Butterfly Wintering Population at All Time Low “In the fall, however, the last generation does not yet breed, instead flying from Canada and across the US all the way back to the wintering grounds in Mexico, where if it is lucky enough to survive the winter, will breed and begin the journey north once again. Monarchs arrive in Mexico by the thousands, tattered and worn, and exhausted from this amazing journey.” by Carole Sevilla Brown

53. Tell Ortho Monarch Caterpillars Should Not Be a Target of Their Pesticides! “Pesticide manufacturer Ortho is using photos of Monarch caterpillars to promote the purchase of their insect killing toxic chemicals and poisons. And this is a very sorry state of affairs indeed! Monarch butterflies lay their eggs only on plants in the milkweed family, so showing this caterpillar on Ortho’s Flower, Fruit, and Vegetable Insect Killer is misleading at best, because monarch caterpillars pose no danger to your tomato plants, your fruit trees, or any other plant in your garden.” by Carole Sevilla Brown

Swallowtail Butterflies

Black Swallowtails on Zinnia54. Tiger Swallowtails in Your Ecosystem Garden “The Tiger Swallowtail is a large and stunningly beautiful butterfly, and a welcome visitor to your butterfly garden. Because of its size, it gets noticed even by gardeners and others who may not be looking for it, making it, along with the Monarch Butterfly, one of the most widely recognized butterflies.” by Carole Sevilla Brown

55. Pipevine Swallowtails in the Garden, at last! “Despite my offering of two Dutchman’s Pipe vines, only rarely had we seen Pipevine Swallowtails in our garden. That all changed on June 3, 2012, when a female Pipevine Swallowtail flew round and round and round our Tulip Tree looking for just the right bit of our eleven-year old Dutchman’s Pipe vine to lay her eggs on. ” by Pat Sutton

56. Will the Palamedes Swallowtail Butterfly Survive? “Not only is this invasive critter killing off our trees, there is also the potential that the Palamedes Swallowtail Butterfly (Papilio palamedes) could become extinct since the Redbay is the only host plant for this butterfly.” by Loret T. Setters

57. Tiger Swallowtail “The tiger swallowtail is a very impressive creature with its large size, bright colors and bold pattern. It belongs to a group of butterflies called swallowtails in reference to the two projections, “tails” of their hind wings.” by Beatriz Moisset

58. Why Are There So Many Tiger Swallowtails this Year? “This year there are more Eastern Tiger Swallowtails in my garden than I have ever seen before. In years past I’ve seen one, maybe two, Tiger Swallowtails per day in my garden. This year I’m seeing 10, 15, and even 20 at a time in my wildlife garden. And in every wildlife garden I visit it’s the same there, too.” by Carole Sevilla Brown

59. Identifying Swallowtails in the Wildlife Garden “Who would imagine that the caterpillars in the photo below would eventually develop into Swallowtail butterflies with similar characteristics. The larva vary in color and range in appearance from stripes, spikes and intimidating false eyes… The adult butterflies, however, have less obvious differences–they’re basically black with a few distinguishing markings. Of course you can get into a very detailed identification of the most minute differences between these Swallowtails, but here’s the basic (stand-out) features that I look for” by Rebecca Nickols

60. What Did Black Swallowtails Eat Before we Brought In Parsley, Dill, and Queen Anne’s Lace? “I started to wonder what these caterpillars ate BEFORE the European settlement when none of those plants were present in this country. So I started to research this question. I paged through all of my butterfly gardening books, but each and every one of them said the same thing: “Black Swallowtails use members of the carrot family (Apiaceae) including parsley, fennel, dill, Queen Anne’s Lace, and carrots.” by Carole Sevilla Brown

61. Black Swallowtail Surprise Emergence Within A Community Of Monarchs “The beautiful green and yellow chrysalis of the Eastern Black Swallowtail hanging by a fine silk thread within a Monarch caterpillar and chrysalis community.” by Carol Duke

62. What Black and White Caterpillar Eats Carrots“Pretty soon you’ll have lots of beautiful Black Swallowtails floating around your garden. These stunning butterflies lay their eggs on plants in the carrot family, which includes parsley, dill, fennel, Queen Anne’s Lace, and wild carrots. I realized a while ago that all of the plants on the above list were brought to this country by the European settlers, so I got to wondering what Black Swallowtail caterpillars ate before we brought those plants here.” by Carole Sevilla Brown

63. Zebra Swallowtail Butterfly: What Pizzazz “A flash of a butterfly caught my attention. There on the B. alba was a large, beautiful Zebra Swallowtail Butterfly (Eurytides marcellus), fluttering madly while sipping nectar.” by Loret T Setters

64. Raising Eastern Black Swallowtail Caterpillars “This year as I eyed an Eastern Black Swallowtail fasten an egg to a tiny Queen Anne’s Lace plant  hidden within some horrid Bishop’s Weed I thought I might like to get to know the offspring of this butterfly too.” by Carol Duke

65. Spicebush Swallowtails in the Wildlife Garden “The Spicebush Swallowtail is one of my favorite butterflies, with its iridescent black and blue markings and long “tails.” Its coloring resembles the poisonous Pipevine Swallowtail, which gives some protection from hungry birds seeking a tasty snack.” by Carole Sevilla Brown

66. Do Black Swallowtail Catepillars Lay Their Eggs on Dill “I have three large black swallowtail caterpillars that look like they’re ready to lay eggs. Problem is, I. Don’t think the dill plant they’re using will sustain them much longer. Any idea how much longer they’ll be eating? Will they lay eggs on the dill plant?” A question I answer from a reader, by Carole Sevilla Brown


Arizona Fritillary67. Fritillaries in Winter “Adult fritillaries are colorful butterflies of orange and black patterns, often mistaken for monarchs. Their long tongues enable them to reach for nectar hidden in long throated flowers such as horse mints, however they are not about to pass out a good opportunity to drink nectar from more accessible blossoms.” by Beatriz Moisset

68. The Great Spangled Fritillary in the Wildlife Garden “Native Common Blue Violets in my Missouri wildlife garden are considered an invasive, stubborn weed by most — including me. That is until recently I decided to have a new mindset… Violets are the host plant for the Great Spangled Fritillary, which is a common visitor to my butterfly garden.” by Rebecca Nickols

69. Fritillary: A Pretty Butterfly and a Good Pollinator “Fritillary is also the name of a flower with an interesting checkered pattern; it is obvious that both the flower and the butterfly get their common name because of such pattern.” by Beatriz Moisset

70. Florida State Butterfly: Zebra Longwing “I got a treat this past week when I saw the wide, lazy flapping of long black and yellow wings. A Zebra Longwing (Heliconius charithonia) butterfly was making the rounds near my passionvine. I’ve only been graced with this beauty of a butterfly on one prior occasion and it was only a fly-through.” by Loret T. Setters

71. Zebra Longwing Butterfly “The zebra longwing butterfly or zebra heliconian, Heliconius charitonia, is unmistakable with its long narrow wings, which are striped black and pale yellow.” by Beatriz Moisset

Admirals and Relatives

Red Admiral on Tree

Red Admiral Butterfly Sipping From Sap Flow: A video showing a Red Admiral sipping from a sap flow with extreme close up of the proboscis in action

72. Red Admiral Butterfly Explosion “Wildlife gardeners are noticing a significant explosion of Red Admiral butterflies moving north this year. And some naturalists are reporting hundreds of these butterflies passing by within just a few minutes. This amazing sight has even been noticed by the news networks, and our team member Pat Sutton was interviewed by Phaedra Laird of NBC 40 WMGM-TV about why we are seeing such a huge migration this year.” by Carole Sevilla Brown

73. Viceroy Butterfly Puts up a Smokescreen “The Viceroy Butterfly (Limenitis archippus) practices mimicry. One theory is that the Müllerian relationship with the milkweed butterflies helps keep the numbers of both species up by fooling birds into thinking they are all rather toxic, so less are eaten as appetizers.” by Loret T. Setters

74. Nettles…Who Needs ‘Em? “If you’ve ever accidentally touched the stems or foliage of stinging nettle, then you know that they give you a nasty nip! Although the sting doesn’t last more than a few hours, it’s enough to make you remember NOT to touch this plant next time! You’ll need gloves if you plan to pull this weed. So who on earth could love this plant? Meet the Red Admiral butterfly. Nettles are their caterpillars’ only food plant” by Ellen Sousa

True Brushfoots

Pearl Crescent Butterfly75. Pearl Crescent Butterflies in the Wildlife Garden “But there are so many smaller butterflies that are also quite beautiful and are easy to attract to your ecosystem garden. One of these is the Pearl Crescent, one of my favorites, which will continue to be seen in your wildlife garden through the fall.” by Carole Sevilla Brown

76. Urban Species Profile: Mylitta Crescent “The Mylitta Crescent butterfly (Phyciodes mylitta) is a common sight to the west coast of North America. Mylitta was an ancient Babylonian goddess of fertility, their name for Aphrodite and perhaps the butterfly is appropriately named because they often produce multiple broods each year.” by Kelly Brenner

77. Wildlife Garden Visitor – Mourning Cloak “How we manage our wildlife habitat can mean survival or NOT for the very creatures we attract.  Leaving a dead tree standing, a branch with a “hollow” uncut, creating a loose brush pile of fallen limbs, not raking leaves – all of these choices just might mean that the Mourning Cloaks of your garden will survive the winter.” by Pat Sutton

78. Mourning Cloak: First Butterfly of the Season “This morning I saw my first butterfly of the season floating above my garden. It was a Mourning Cloak (Nymphalis antiopa), a stunningly beautiful butterfly. It’s not surprising that this species was the first of the season, as one of it’s other common names is “Harbinger of Spring.” by Carole Sevilla Brown

79. When a Peacock isn’t a Bird “The White Peacock butterfly (Anartia jatrophae) is one of the more prolific members of my garden crew at this time of year. I guess because of the winter freeze they were a little slow to return, but have comeback with amazing numbers now.” by Loret T. Setters

80. Growing Turtlehead for Baltimore Checkerspot Butterflies “Want to attract the Baltimore Checkerspot butterfly to your gardens?  Plant the eastern native turtlehead, which is one of the very few food plants that young Baltimore checkerspot caterpillars can eat.” by Ellen Sousa

81. Monkeys for Butterflies “The abundance of Monkeyflowers is good news for the Buckeye butterfly (Junonia coenia) and the Checkerspot butterfly (Euphydryas chalcedona), as Monkeyflower is a larval host plant for both of them.  A larval host plant means a plant that is a food source that will sustain growing caterpillars.” by Kathy Villim

82. Common Buckeye Butterflies Migrate “When most of us think of Butterfly migration, the amazing phenomenon of Monarch migration is what comes to mind. But did you know that other butterflies migrate, too? The Common Buckeye is found throughout the spring and summer from Nova Scotia, Quebec, and Ontario south through all of the US except for the Pacific Northwest.” by Carole Sevilla Brown

83. Pearl Crescent Butterfly “A while back I was enthralled watching a pair of Crescent Butterflies fluttering around, preparing to mate so I made a video slideshow with a “tongue-in-cheek” caption narrative of my photoshoot.” by Loret T. Setters

84. Painted Lady Butterfly “The Painted Lady butterfly is a very interesting species. While it can be very common in some years, in others it may not be seen at all or only on rare occasions. This is because they occasionally have populations irruptions, spreading outwards over several generations.” by Kelly Brenner

85. American Lady Butterfly Seeking Native Host Plants “Adding butterfly host plants to your landscape sometimes doesn’t yield instant outcomes. But this week, planning and patience paid off. A very tattered American Lady butterfly was flying around the yard checking out the plants in our prairie area. Migrating from the south she arrived on last legs ready to start the next generation.” by Heather Holm

Satyrs And Wood Nymphs

86. Carolina Satyr Butterflies “The Carolina Satyr Butterfly (Hermeuptychia sosybius) is one of several beautiful butterflies that are often seen during the cooler months in Florida. They are low flying and not particularly fond of the paparazzi given that they don’t seem to want to hold still for a photo. Every and again I luck out, but the chase can be exhausting.” by Loret T. Setters

87. Northern Pearly Eye Butterfly Seeking Native Host Plants “It’s always fun to look for woodland butterfly species. Many woodland butterflies are medium to dark brown in color making them difficult to spot in shady places. I photographed this Northern Pearly Eye at a local park, fluttering around under large oak trees by a creek. This seems to be their preferred habitat as their host plants include both shade tolerant and wetland marginal grass species.” by Heather Holm

Hairstreaks and Coppers

88. Hairstreak Butterflies “Hairstreaks are so called for the hair-like tails on the hind wings. They also have eyespots or markings on the hind wings. These two things combined can easily lead a predator to think that this part is the head and to take a bite off the wrong end, allowing the butterfly to escape” by Beatriz Moisset

89. A Specialized Bog Butterfly “We timed our visit to the bog when the Small Cranberries were flowering and as it turns out – the best time to see these Bog Copper butterflies. Bog Coppers are a very specialized butterfly, much like the well known Monarch and Milkweed relationship, Bog Copper butterflies rely upon Cranberry plants for both the adult and larval stages of their lifecycle.” by Heather Holm


Skippers on Purple Coneflower90. Getting to Know Skippers “I adore skippers, but I must confess: I’m not good at identifying individual species. I know the distinctive silver-spotted skipper and long-tailed skipper, but I hesitate to ID most others. To novice me, they are the butterfly equivalent of the bird world’s little brown jobs: Despite their own unique characteristics, I can’t readily distinguish them. Yet.” by Kelly Senser

91. Silver-spotted Skipper “Skippers look like a cross between a butterfly and a moth. They are usually rather drab and brown, although some can be colorful. The main difference between skippers and butterflies is in the antennae, they are similar to those of butterflies, except that the little thickening at the end of it is shaped like a hook rather than a knob. They fly skipping about and that is how they get their name.” by Beatriz Moisset

92. Woodland Skipper “The Woodland Skipper  is one of the few butterflies that is almost entirely tolerant of urban habitat. Over the last few weeks I’ve seen these tiny butterflies, often by the dozens, covering lavender plants throughout my neighborhood in the city.” by Kelly Brenner

93. Silver Spotted Skipper Butterfly & Native Foodplants “This is one of the largest skippers found in the upper Midwest. It is just over 1 inch in length with dark brown coloring, a gold band on the forewings, and a white spot on the hindwings that “flashes as it flies”.” by Heather Holm


94. Waiting for the Spring Arrival of the Blues “My favorite butterflies are those that arrive in early spring here in Northern California. They’re tiny flying flowers that come in all shades of blue. Although, there are fancier varieties, it’s the blues have always been the most attractive to me.” by Chris McLaughlin

Whites And Sulphurs

95. Reward of “Weeds” “The other day I was watching a white butterfly flit from plant to plant. It was spending a lot of time around the Virginia Pepperweed (Lepidium virginicum). I tried to photograph the butterfly but it moved too fast, or perhaps I am just to slow. I’d seen similar before and knew I had a photo somewhere but I really wasn’t positive of the identity. Searching, I discovered it is a Great Southern White” by Loret T. Setters

96. Pieridae Butterflies: Whites and Sulphurs “Some of the most common and easy to recognize butterflies are the whites and sulphurs. In fact the name butterfly probably comes from “butter colored flies” referring to some of the yellow ones.” by Beatriz Moisset

97. Jewel in the Wildlife Garden: Partridge Pea = Cloudless Sulphur Chrysalis “I’m not sure when I added Partridge Pea to my wildlife garden, but I’ve enjoyed it in the wild in southern New Jersey for many years. I was keen to have Partridge Pea in my wildlife garden for several reasons. It is a native plant that is favored by native bees and honey bees, plus Cloudless Sulphurs lay their eggs on it.” by Pat Sutton

98. Are you what you eat in the Wildlife Garden? “I found a yellow caterpillar of the Cloudless Sulphur Butterfly (Phoebis sennae) on my Partridge Pea (Chamaecrista fasciculata). I photographed my find and headed in to make sure I had identified it correctly. Now mind you, it was the third new-to-me caterpillar I found this week,” by Loret T. Setters

99. The California Dogface Butterfly “The California Dogface legally became California’s official butterfly in 1972. But, entomologists had long considered this delicate flying insect California’s unofficial butterfly since the 1920’s. Only the male butterfly carries man’s best friend’s profile on its wings. The dog face is patterned with tiny yellow scales that can have an iridescent pink or violet sheen to it.” by Chris McLaughlin

Butterflies Through the Seasons


Butterfly House at Albuquerque Botanic Garden: Many photos of Albuquerque area butterflies from a very close up view

100. Looking for Signs of Spring “Now butterflies—we’ve got some butterflies. The male mourning cloak is doing his rounds today. He patrols the yard with martial vigor and I giggle uncontrollably every time I see him, because dude, territorial butterflies. Is there anything better? I picture him carrying a tiny musket over one shoulder and saying “Hup! Hup! Hup!” as he flies.” by Ursula Vernon

101. First Butterflies of Spring “Also to be seen in the early spring are the Spring Azure butterflies. Compared to the Mourning Cloak (2 ½ to 4″), Spring Azures are tiny (¾ to 1 ¼ “) so you’ll have to look carefully to spot them. Some are only about the size of your thumbnail.” by Carole Sevilla Brown

102. First Monarch of the Spring “I was thrilled to see my first Monarch Butterfly of the season this year while in Austin, TX to visit the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. And it reminded me that I want to create a more welcoming habitat for Monarchs in my Pennsylvania wildlife garden this year.” by Carole Sevilla Brown

103. Spring Dangers “Falcate orangetips like damp, open woods. This pair was somewhat less secure, because they plummeted to earth directly in front of a moving wheelbarrow, forcing me to screech to a halt and fling mulch randomly in the air, but hey, it’s spring. Butterflies have needs, man. Still, we’ll add “wheelbarrow strike” to our list of spring dangers.” by Ursula Vernon

104. 1st Monarch, April 16th “As spring unfolds it is always a special day when the first Monarch appears. This Monarch, our first, sailed over our house and into the back yard. Our mid-April garden is mostly spring weeds, which I leave because so little else is in bloom.” by Pat Sutton

105. Sleeping Beauties “My butterflies and moths are in suspended animation at the moment, snuggled neatly in their compact chrysalis and cocoon pupae.  This is how they spend the winter, a sort of hibernation, waiting for the warm days of spring to gently wake them from their slumber.” by Judy Burris

106. Butterflies of April, “This is the time of year when my wildlife garden really starts to gear up. My native plants are starting to poke their new growth up through the leaf mulch. The birds are beginning to return from their southern wintering homes. And I’m on the lookout for butterflies. Yes, even though it’s still quite chilly here in the northeast, it is quite likely that I’ll be spotting butterflies soon. I’ve already seen my first Mourning Cloak of the year!” by Carole Sevilla Brown

107. It Is Hard To See The New England Asters For All The Monarchs! “Monarch butterfly migration is well under way. I watched my last Monarch butterfly emerge from its chrysalis four days ago and later in the afternoon held a perfect female out to the large sky so that she might fly and realize her new potential. It is always a thrill for me to watch a butterfly take its first flight” by Carol Duke

108. How to Build a Butterfly House “In the northeastern states only a few butterflies are able to winter as adults. They’re likely to crawl down inside a wood pile, in under shutters or shingles, beneath a chunk of bark, or down inside a hollow tree.  You get the idea, hiding somewhere sheltered from winter weather where they can remain safe and undisturbed – in other words, a Butterfly House.” by Pat Sutton

109. Monarchs in the Wintertime “Then I discovered near the base of the tree, that the ground was littered with many, many monarchs!  What had happed here? Had they fallen out of the tree? Were they too cold? (We’d had a cold snap bringing night time temps down in the mid-30’s for a couple of nights now.) Had the winds knocked them down? Had their wings gotten too wet?” by Kathy Villim

110. Going to Bed for the Winter “Many of the moths and butterflies we’ve attracted to our gardens spend the winter in the garden as an egg, a partially grown caterpillar, or a chrysalis. Many spiders and preying mantises lay egg masses that over winter too; the adults die as late fall arrives.” by Pat Sutton

111. Where do butterflies spend the winter? “Have you ever gazed out of the kitchen window at your beautiful wildlife garden on a cold winter’s day?  It looks so barren and lonely.  Have you ever wondered where the butterflies go during this time of year? But what about the butterflies – our delicate winged wonders?” by Judy Burris

112. If a woolly bear sees his shadow in February, who needs a groundhog? “It’s been warm enough here for me to take a walk around the garden. There on top of a low stone wall I was delighted to see this woolly bear caterpillar. Perhaps he had left his winter home in the leaf litter to enjoy the sunshine too. Clearly his shadow is visible. Spring could be on it’s way.” by Becky Hillick

Butterfly Defenses

Spicebush Swallowtail Caterpillar 2113. My, What Big Eyes You Have! “This is the caterpillar of the Spicebush Swallowtail Butterfly. This smart little guy has adopted a very smart disguise. Look at those eyes. Huge. But those eyes are actually a trick, making them look like a snake, even down to the white highlight in the “eye.” Most birds are terrified of snakes and may decide to just leave this caterpillar alone.” by Carole Sevilla Brown

114. The Creative Costumes of Creepy Crawlies “I was photographing skipper butterflies when I thought I saw one of the flowers moving on the Bidens alba, which is larval host for the species in my area. At first I believed I spent too much time in the sun, but then I saw it again… slowly making its way up the stem branch. As I got closer, I realized that it WAS a walking flower. Clever little yellow caterpillar!” by Loret T. Setters

115. Tricky Tiger Swallowtail “Many birds find these butterflies and their caterpillars quite tasty, so the Tiger Swallowtail has several tricks up its sleeve. First, the larva (caterpillar) has a disguise to trick birds into thinking that it is a bird dropping. Now that is something that birds have no desire to eat, so they skip over that in their search for something to eat in your butterfly garden.” by Carole Sevilla Brown


116. Pacific Northwest Moths Drawing from the knowledge of moth experts and specimen records from the region’s major insect collections, this site features detailed species accounts,high resolution photographs, and an interactive identification key for every Pacific Northwest moth species

117. White Striped Black Moth and Native Foodplants “This tiny (1 inch wide) black and white moth is also a day flying moth. Mesic to wet woodlands and forest edges where foodplants grow.” by Heather Holm

118. Discovering Moths: Nighttime Jewels in Your Own Backyard Discovering Moths: Nighttime Jewels in Your Own Backyard, by John Himmelman, is a truly wonderful book. It’s full of information about moths, written in a way that educates without feeling like a text book. By the end of the book I was ready to run out to start finding moths, which was unfortunate since it’s currently the middle of winter.” by Kelly Brenner

119. Woolly Bears “Ever seen one of these caterpillars crossing the road in the fall and wondered where it is going with such a sense of purpose? They are woolly bear caterpillars (Pyrrharctia isabella), and they are the juvenile form of the Isabella tiger moth” by Ellen Sousa

120. Eight Spotted Forester Moth and Native Foodplants “This is anothershowy, day flying, nectaring moth. It has long bright orange hairs on its two forelegs, which look like collected pollen. It has two creamy-white spots on the black forewings, and two on each hindwing, thus its common name Eight Spotted.” by Heather Holm

121. Design for Moths “Moth species outnumber butterflies in North America 14-1 and they have so many species that in the animal world, only beetles have more. So why are there countless resources for designing butterfly habitat, but only a handful for moths? Unfortunately, moths get a bad rap as a pest…Another reason they’re overlooked is because moths are active at twilight and during the night and there are fewer people around to impress during that time.” by Kelly Brenner

122. I’ve Just Seen a Baby Hummingbird . . . NOT ! “Probing for more details I’d often learn that their “baby hummingbird” had antennae (like a butterfly), a tongue (also like a butterfly), and NOT a long bill (like a hummingbird). Mystery solved.  Their garden visitor was instead a day-flying moth, known as a hummingbird moth(one of the sphinx moths).” by Pat Sutton

123. White Lined Sphinx Moth and Native Foodplants ” have only seen the White Lined Sphinx moth once in Minnesota. It is a very beautiful Sphinx moth with pink striped hind wings and distinguishing white stripes down the forewings and thorax.” by Heather Holm

124. Snowberry Clearwing Moth & Native Foodplants “If you want to attract this amazing day flying nectaring moth, having the right native food and nectar plants in your yard is the key.” by Heather Holm

125. Rip Van Moth-y “I had a real treat on the past Saturday. I stepped outside to help my elderly Labrador down the steps, a usual ritual at the break of dawn. When I was hanging up the towel used as a sling to prevent his rear from collapsing as he ventures down the four steps, I eyed one of my bug display boxes used for kids’ outreach programs at community events. There in the display was a Polyphemus Moth.” by Loret T. Setters

126. The Imperial Moth “So I was sitting on the front porch, wishing I could work in the garden, except that there is a heat advisory of the “Seriously You Will Die, We Are Not Kidding, Stay Indoors, Dear God It’s Hot,” variety on, so I am reduced to gazing sadly on the ragged tatters of my August garden, which are, I will not lie, pretty ragged. And I got up, sighing heavily, and turned to go inside, and spotted this handsome fellow sitting on my doorframe.” by Ursula Vernon

127. An Inch-by-Inch Decoration Feat “After some online sleuthing I decided that this was a camouflaged looper, the larval stage of an emerald moth. The larvae of this genus are inchworms that adorn themselves with bits of flowers for camouflage.” by Ginny Stibolt

128. What’s in a day? “Generally, if you are a moth, I suppose sleep! But there are some exceptions to that rule and some are mistaken for butterflies.One in particular is a favorite of mine. The bella moth, (Utetheisa ornatrix), is quite beautiful and I’m supposing that’s how it got its common name.” by Loret T Setters

129. Amazing Moth Caterpillars “Marvelous moth caterpillars. Seeing first-hand the incredible variety of shapes and colors gave us a real appreciation for moth caterpillars. We were especially impressed with the stinging rose slugs. We know they have a weird name, but just look at those colors.” by Judy Burris

130. Half Hidden Beauty in the Garden “I remarked how I could never get a spread-wing picture of this beauty of a moth. While the forewings are quite beautiful in and of themselves, to see the rich pink color that hides underneath really is a treat, but this moth rarely lands with the wings spread. At LAST, I got my shot, but in a way it is a little sad because apparently this moth had some sort of injury.” by Loret T. Setters

131. Giant Silkworm Moths: Cecropia Moth “So when I came home from teaching a pollinator gardening class this past July with a Cecropia Moth caterpillar, let’s just say, nobody was surprised. But seriously, how cool is this big fella with the shiny red, blue and yellow spikes and how could I not resist him?” by Ellen Sousa

132. Raising a Silkworm Moth – Part 2 “Last Monday, in the nick of time, I noticed that Czech had just emerged from its cocoon! He (she?) was gently waving its wings to dry them off and prepare for flight. I’d almost missed it!” by Ellen Sousa

133. Caterpillar Gangs? I Don’t Panic “So, how did I come upon these thugs? Well, my obsession with bug photography has a lot to do with it. During a routine glance-over, I noticed that one branch of my oak was completely bare of leaves. Upon further inspection I saw that the a group of Southern Pink-striped Oakworm Moth larva (Anisota virginiensis pellucida) were busy noshing and leaving nothing behind.” by Loret T. Setters

134. An Exception to the Rules “The exceptional and beautiful polka-dotted wasp moth (Syntomeida epilais) breaks a number of Mother Nature’s rules” by Ginny Stibolt

135. Tasty Morsels and their Native Plants “This will be more of a pictorial about the unsung heroes of the garden. Moth Caterpillars! Moth caterpillars play a big part in feeding birds and reptiles. Some of the caterpillars tend to be quite showy.” by Loret T. Setters

136. Moths as Pollinators “From hummingbird moths to curious things such as poop-flinging caterpillars to carnivorous moths. We are familiar with butterflies pollinating flowers, but easily forget about moths. Actually, butterflies are a specialized type of moths, or, more properly they are all Lepidoptera. Then, it is important to learn more about the role of moths in pollination” by Beatriz Moisset

Carole Sevilla Brown lives in Philadelphia, PA, and she travels the country speaking about Ecosystem Gardening for Wildlife. Check out her new free online course Ecosystem Gardening Essentials, 15 free lessons delivered to your inbox every week.

© 2013, Carole Sevilla Brown. All rights reserved. This article is the property of Native Plants and Wildlife Gardens. We have received many requests to reprint our work. Our policy is that you are free to use a short excerpt which must give proper credit to the author, and must include a link back to the original post on our site. Please use the contact form above if you have any questions.

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  1. Dee says

    I clicked on a few books to try to order, but it’s only for kindles! I don’t have a kindle, nor do I want one! I want to buy the actual BOOK!
    Did I miss something & can I actually buy a book? I’ve only ordered from Amazon once before. I’m so disappointed, there are many of these that I would like to purchase.

    • says

      Amazon kindle books can be loaded onto your smart phone or onto your computer. I don’t own a kindle, but I love to put e-books on my phone!
      Thank you Carole for creating such a nice list :)

  2. says

    Wow! A tour de force (‘never studied French). I’m bookmarking this extraordinary site. Once the fencing is completed in a couple of weeks, we plant our garden (Pittsburgh) for beauty, color, and as a beacon for butterflies, bees & ruby throateds. This resource will be very helpful…and containers for natives, what a terrific idea!
    Jeff Zablow

  3. DeAnna B says

    What’s This Caterpillar was one of the first books I ordered for my new Kindle. I gave it the highest rating available on Amazon & it an excellent review, highly recommending it. I’ve used it lots of times to identify various cats. It’s an excellent resource book. I just ordered Life Cycles of Butterflies, 50 Beautiful Butterflies,50 Marvelous Moths & The Butterfly Field Guide. I have this page bookmarked, I’ll come back soon & order more.


  1. […] The Ultimate Guide to Butterfly and Moth Gardening: Butterflies around the country are in danger from habitat loss and pesticide spraying. You have a critical role to play in protecting these beautiful and beneficial pollinators by creating welcoming habitat in your wildlife garden. […]

  2. […] hibernates through the winter as a winged adult instead of a chrysalis, it is one of the earliest butterflies that I  see in my garden.  As soon as there is a warm day or two in the spring, Mourning Cloaks […]

  3. […] The Ultimate Guide to Butterfly and Moth Gardening: Butterflies around the country are in danger from habitat loss and pesticide spraying. You have a critical role to play in protecting these beautiful and beneficial pollinators by creating welcoming habitat in your wildlife garden. When we think of butterfly gardens, we tend to think of lots of nectar plants for adult butterflies, but to have a successful garden for butterflies there is much more to it than that. You need to understand the whole Life Cycle of each butterfly and moth species you want to attract so that you can plan for all of their needs. […]

  4. […] Life in the Southwest is unique in many ways, and tops on the list are plants you don’t find anywhere else on earth. One of these is a shrubby member of the snapdragon family, the Leucophyllum. Native to dry, calcareous areas of Chihuahuan Desert in the states of Texas USA and Chihuahua, Coahuila, Nuevo León, and Tamaulipas in Mexico, this shrub is well adapted to the xeriscape landscape, and is popular with a number of native pollinators. […]

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