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Attracting Bees and Butterflies to Your Yard

Updated on March 3, 2016
LisaRoppolo profile image

Lisa is a writer and gardener with extensive knowledge of plants and plant care. Her articles focus on easy-care tips for home gardeners.

Bee and Butterfly Die-Off: An Alarming Problem

You have heard it in the news and witnessed it in your own yard; bees and butterflies are dying off in record numbers thanks to environmental toxins and the "modern" way in which we farm and tend to our yards.

The biggest culprit are genetically modified crops such as corn and soy, as well as over use of herbicides, namely Glyphosate aka Round Up. These practices are destroying the natural habitat of butterflies and bee colonies at an alarming rate.

Honey Bee on Oregano Bloom
Honey Bee on Oregano Bloom | Source
Common Buckeye on sedum bloom
Common Buckeye on sedum bloom | Source

What Glyphosate Does to the Environment

Glyphosate is an herbicide designed to reduce weed populations in conjunction with genetically modified crops. The genetically modified crops are referred to as "round up ready", which means they were modified to resist round up so a whole field can be sprayed for weeds and it won't affect the food crop. In theory, this is a great time saver for farmers, but the reality is, this chemical in conjunction with GE (genetically engineered) crops are starting to show long-term negative effects.

Glyphosate destroys beneficial soil microbes which strip minerals from the soil, in turn, weakening plants. Plants aren't able to uptake enough nutrients, therefore, the foods you purchase have less nutrients now than they did a few decades ago. This not only affects insect populations, but consider how this might affect humans as well. We still don't know the very long term effects that modern farming will have on humans.

How We Can Help Save Bee and Butterfly Populations

There are a few things we can do in our own yards to help sustain bee and butterfly populations.

  • Reduce or eliminate chemical fertilizers, herbicides etc.
  • Plant flowers and herbs that appeal to bees and butterflies.
  • Create structures to attract bees and butterflies.
  • Purchase organic foods whenever you can. USDA 100% Organic companies do not permit GMO's in their products.

Bumble Bee on Coneflower
Bumble Bee on Coneflower | Source
Monarda aka Bee Balm and Bumble Bee
Monarda aka Bee Balm and Bumble Bee | Source
Summer Azure butterfly visiting a dill flower
Summer Azure butterfly visiting a dill flower | Source
Red Admiral on Oregano blossom
Red Admiral on Oregano blossom | Source

Types of Plants to Attract Bees and Butterflies

P=Perennial, B= Biennial, A=Annual

  • Anise Hyssop P
  • Aster P
  • Coneflower P
  • Monarda aka Bee Balm P
  • Butterfly Bush aka Buddielia P
  • Dill A
  • Daisy P
  • Oregano P
  • Fennel A
  • Borage A
  • Parsley A
  • Milkweed P
  • Clover P
  • Joe Pye Weed P
  • Sunflower A
  • Liatris P
  • Black-eyed Susan P
  • Goldenrod P
  • Lantana A
  • Cosmos A
  • Hibiscus P
  • Hollyhock B
  • Salvia P
  • Yarrow P
  • Zinnia A

This is not a complete list. There are many more!


Giant yellow swallowtail on coneflower
Giant yellow swallowtail on coneflower | Source
Monarch on Coneflower
Monarch on Coneflower | Source

Milkweed Plants Support the Monarch Butterfly

Milkweed is an important host plant for the Monarch Butterfly, who's numbers have severely declined due to destruction of milkweed plants located on edges of farms, fields and woodland areas. The Monarch will only lay their eggs on milkweed plants. When the larvae hatch, the young caterpillars then eat the leaves of the milkweed for a few weeks to help them grow. Once they are ready, they will then form their chrysalis and attach themselves to a stem for their transformation. Once their transformation is complete, the adult butterfly hatches and goes off on its merry way to find nectar to feed on.

Monarch visiting a bloom in downtown Chicago on a summer's afternoon.
Monarch visiting a bloom in downtown Chicago on a summer's afternoon. | Source
Clouded Yellow Butterfly on Swamp Milkweed
Clouded Yellow Butterfly on Swamp Milkweed | Source

Dill and Parsley: Host Plants for Swallowtails

If you would like to attract these massive butterflies, make sure you plant Dill and Parsley. Both are attractive to the Swallowtail and create a similar lifecycle as milkweed does with the Monarch. Since humans eat both of these herbs, I always over-plant to ensure we get some too! Butterfly caterpillars can be voracious eaters.

Swallowtail Eggs on Dill

Swallowtail eggs on Dill
Swallowtail eggs on Dill | Source

Second Phase: Young Swallowtail Caterpillar

Swallowtail Caterpillar on Dill
Swallowtail Caterpillar on Dill | Source

Adult Caterpillar Stage before Chrysalis

Swallowtail caterpillar stage 3 or 4
Swallowtail caterpillar stage 3 or 4 | Source

The Adult Swallowtail

Black Swallowtail resting on a tomato branch
Black Swallowtail resting on a tomato branch | Source

Constructing a Butterfly Feeding Station

In addition to planting butterflies favorite flowers, you can also create a simple butterfly feeding station.

  1. Get a shallow dish or saucer from the bottom of a clay pot.
  2. Place slices of over-ripe fruit in the dish.
  3. Put a bit of water in the dish.
  4. You can also add a few smooth rocks as perches for the butterflies.
  5. Set in a place near the ground, on a table or even on a birdbath base.

(see example photo below)

Butterfly Feeding Station

Butterfly feeding station@ Brookfield Zoo, Chicago, IL
Butterfly feeding station@ Brookfield Zoo, Chicago, IL | Source

Constructing a Bee House

We can't forget about Bees! They play a very important role in food production because without them, more than half the crops we consume that require pollination would not be available to us.

  1. Get some type of tubing. Popular things to use are hollow stems, bamboo and even straws.
  2. You need some type of structure, like a wooden box to place the straws into.
  3. Pack them tightly in or you can add a bit of wood glue or hot glue to keep them secure.
  4. Place bee box in an area that gets morning sun, but afternoon shade. On the side of the garage, tree or fence will work the best.

(see photo examples below)

Bee House on Tree example from Pinterest

Bee House
Bee House | Source

My version of a bee house

Using the above image as an example, I took a planter I had and used toilet paper rolls, hollow branches from plants and sticks hot-glued into the box. Hope I Get some bees!
Using the above image as an example, I took a planter I had and used toilet paper rolls, hollow branches from plants and sticks hot-glued into the box. Hope I Get some bees! | Source

To Recap:

  • Do use flowers and plants that attract bees and butterflies in your garden.
  • Do purchase organic products when possible.
  • Do use bee houses and butterfly feeding stations.
  • Do sign petitions and send letters to your local congress people demanding use of Glyphosate and other dangerous chemicals to be abolished.
  • Don't use pesticides, chemical fertilizers or herbicides in your yard.

Butterflies on Lantana @ Brookfield Zoo, Chicago, IL
Butterflies on Lantana @ Brookfield Zoo, Chicago, IL | Source

Bee and Butterfly Poll

How likely are you to use one of the plants or techniques above to attract bees and butterflies to your garden?

See results

© 2014 Lisa Roppolo

Comments

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    • DREAM ON profile image

      DREAM ON 

      21 months ago

      I remember seeing butterfly's everywhere now very few. Great tips and a very informative hub. If I put ripe fruit I attract yellow jackets which I don't think they are good. I also have a weeping cherry that the bees love. Have a great day.

    • LisaRoppolo profile imageAUTHOR

      Lisa Roppolo 

      4 years ago from Joliet, IL

      Thanks!

    • Purpose Embraced profile image

      Yvette Stupart PhD 

      4 years ago from Jamaica

      This a very interesting and informative hub. I like the idea of a butterfly feeding station. Thanks for sharing.

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