- Butterflies and Pollinators Resources -

What kinds of butterflies are likely to be seen in Connecticut?

According to the Connecticut Audubon Society, there are 23 common butterflies in Connecticut.  For more on this go to:

http://ct.audubon.org/sites/default/files/common_connecticut_butterflies_and_their_host_plants_-_handout.pdf

The plants growing in a landscape determine what butterflies can be in residence.  A homeowner is likely to attract a particular species if there is both food for the caterpillars (native host plants) and food for the adults in the form of nectar-rich flowers. 

 

When do they arrive and where do they come from?  

Almost all of the butterflies seen in Connecticut are here year-round.  Two exceptions are the giant swallowtail and, of course, and the monarch.  Monarchs spend the winter in the fir forests of Mexico.  Giant swallowtails, North America’s largest butterfly, are an occasional visitor to our area during the summer, but most likely cannot survive a harsh Connecticut winter.  They are found year-round in warmer states, like Pennsylvania.

The different butterfly species overwinter in one of four stages, some as eggs, some as caterpillars (fritillaries), some as pupas (swallowtails), and others as adults (monarchs). 

They can be seen when the weather warms up and food becomes available for adults and caterpillars.

Engrossing information on the monarch butterfly can be found here:

https://joegardener.com/podcast/147-monarchs-and-milkweed-a-precarious-struggle-between-life-and-death/

 

How does a host plant differ from a nectar plant?

An adult butterfly’s diet consists of nectar from nectar-rich flowers.   A homeowner may grow the most beautiful flowering plants, but if nectar-rich flowers are not available, few butterflies will visit the property.  

A caterpillar’s diet is very different from that of the adult butterfly.  Most caterpillars can only digest the leaves of specific native plant(s). Female adult butterflies lay their eggs on the leaves of these plants (referred to as host plants) so that food is readily available after hatching. For the monarch caterpillar, its host plant is milkweed.  The spicebush swallowtail caterpillar, on the other hand, can only digest the leaves of the spicebush or the sassafras.  

If a property does not include both nectar-rich flowers as well as a particular butterfly’s host plants, then that particular butterfly species will be an infrequent visitor.  The best butterfly gardens have numerous plants that provide food for both the adult butterfly and the caterpillars.  This enables butterflies to be in residence and not just landing briefly for a sip of nectar.

 

Why are butterflies called pollinators and are there other pollinators? Why are they important?

 

Bees, butterflies, hummingbirds, moths, beetles, and bats are all pollinators.  

Bees are important because they pollinate one-third of our crops.  Along with other pollinators, they pollinate 87% of all plants and 90% of all flowering plants.  And butterfly caterpillars as well as other insect larva are the mainstay of the diet of immature birds.

See this website for further information regarding pollinators and their importance:

https://plants.usda.gov/pollinators/Native_Pollinators.pdf      

 

What can I plant to attract butterflies and other pollinators?

To attract more butterflies to your yard, plant groupings of five or more of the same nectar-rich flowers or the same native host plants in a sunny location.  Planting a flower species in masses helps the adult butterfly locate the nectar-rich flowers and host plants through a combination of sight and scent.

 

More suggestions to keep in mind when planning your landscape can be found here:

https://www.thesca.org/butterflygarden/?gclid=EAIaIQobChMI-bCNu5as6AIV9Y5bCh2rtQD1EAAYASAAEgIo2PD_BwE

 http://nababutterfly.com/start-butterfly-garden/

 

Below is the United States Department of Agriculture list of Pollinator-Friendly Plants for the Northeast:

https://a405abfc-cc29-4d83-80dc-8317bff89633.filesusr.com/ugd/507894_5ac075bc0240443681af2cbb23dc3444.pdf

More information on pollinators, including bees and moths in addition to butterflies, can be found here: 

https://portal.ct.gov/DEEP/Wildlife/Learn-About-Wildlife/Pollinators-in-Connecticut   

http://nenativeplants.uconn.edu/pollinators.php    

For more butterfly information and activities, visit The Picnic Table page.