Attracting Bees and Butterflies to Your Yard
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.
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.
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!
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.
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
Second Phase: Young Swallowtail Caterpillar
Adult Caterpillar Stage before Chrysalis
The Adult Swallowtail
Constructing a Butterfly Feeding Station
In addition to planting butterflies favorite flowers, you can also create a simple butterfly feeding station.
- Get a shallow dish or saucer from the bottom of a clay pot.
- Place slices of over-ripe fruit in the dish.
- Put a bit of water in the dish.
- You can also add a few smooth rocks as perches for the butterflies.
- Set in a place near the ground, on a table or even on a birdbath base.
(see example photo below)
Butterfly Feeding Station
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.
- Get some type of tubing. Popular things to use are hollow stems, bamboo and even straws.
- You need some type of structure, like a wooden box to place the straws into.
- Pack them tightly in or you can add a bit of wood glue or hot glue to keep them secure.
- 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
My version of a bee house
- 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.
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?
© 2014 Lisa Roppolo