Gardening for Birds and Butterflies

As natural habitats are replaced by developed land, many species of birds and butterflies become increasingly reliant on the space gardeners provide for them. Here are the basics for creating a bird and butterfly oasis in your garden.

Avoid Using Pesticides

Although pesticides might be designed to target specific pests, they can also harm other creatures that are beneficial to a garden. In most cases, if your garden has been well prepared and tended, its natural ecosystem of creatures will help to keep pests in check. If you feel you must use a pesticide, be aware that organic pesticides are just as lethal as their chemical counterparts, and follow instructions for use exactly as they are written.

Create Sheltering Areas

Birds and butterflies need places to rest and prepare for future generations. This means having good roosting and nesting sites. Birds will use either trees or nesting boxes that you provide. Just make sure that they’re situated high enough to protect them from marauding predators.

Butterflies lay their eggs on the leaves of specific plants that the caterpillars will dine on once they’re hatched. It’s crucial to provide plants they use for food and egg-laying sites in spots that are sunny and sheltered from strong winds. Because they aren’t warm-blooded, butterflies need to be warmed by the sun so that they can move. Placing a few large, flat stones in your garden gives butterflies a place to sun themselves.

Provide Water

All living creatures need water, which is easy to provide in a garden setting by means of a pond, fountain, or birdbath. Be aware, however, that butterflies can’t use an ordinary birdbath because it’s too deep for them. What you can do instead is provide a large saucer, such as those used under large plant pots, and fill it with moist sand. The butterflies will then have a place to land and drink without getting overly wet.

Provide Food

With a little planning, you can provide plants that will be food sources for your winged guests all season long. However, the National Audubon Society also recommends year-round use of birdseed to provide additional foods and attract birds that you might not otherwise see in your yard. Many butterflies enjoy dining on ripe fruit, so a feeding station with slices of fruit can also draw new species to your garden.

Butterflies use plants for food both in the larval stage, when they are caterpillars, and as adults. Different types of butterflies prefer different plant species. Monarchs, for example, must have milkweeds to eat when they are caterpillars, but as adults they’ll go to a host of different flowers for nectar. To attract many different species, it’s good to have a variety of different flowering plants in various colours.

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