Friday, August 21, 2009

My Ant/Wasp/Butterfly Garden

One of my favorite places in the world is the Butterfly House in St. Louis, Missouri. It is a huge conservatory filled with butterflies. It is landscaped like a little jungle, and you follow little windy paths as all sorts of tropical butterflies flit above and around you. (If you are lucky, they will even land on you). This place seriously fills me with glee (yes, glee) and makes me feel like a little girl. It's a great place to beat the wintertime blues.

Since I no longer live close to the Butterfly House, but do have a backyard, this summer I decided to try my hand at a making a butterfly garden- meaning planting flowers that attract butterflies. This is something that you could dedicate acres of land to or even just a few containers. I went the container route. Perhaps I can ease my husband into the idea of eventually making our whole backyard a butterfly garden. But then, I would probably never leave our back window.
In planning a butterfly garden, you can plant flowers that only attract butterflies as a food source and/or plants that butterflies use to lay there eggs on ("host" plants). I did some Google searches to find which local flowers are known to attract butterflies in my area. I also learned that milkweed is the ONLY plant that Monarchs will lay their eggs on. So if you want to see Monarchs, plant milkweed. I decided to try one nectar plant and one host plant. So I planted some milkweed and some lantanas in a large container. And I waited. And I waited. And every day I watched my back window waiting for even one butterfly to pay attention. Nothing happened. Upon closer inspection of my milkweed, I found that I had attracted a whole colony of ants to the little blossoms. Apparently, they like milkweed too. A week went by, and nothing but ants. And then one day, I learned that wasps like milkweed too. Another week, and moths had found my lantana. I was attracting all sorts of friendly insects to our back porch, but not one butterfly.
And then one day it happened. I looked outside and a huge monarch butterfly was drinking deeply of the nectar that I had provided for it. It was seriously getting drunk off the stuff! It probably spent 10 minutes floating around the plant and landing to drink. I was so excited. It even allowed me to step outside and watch it.

Since then, a few more Monarchs have graced our yard with their presence. Then we went out of town, and my garden kind of took a dive. But, I am inspired to dedicate a plot of actual yard to my butterfly garden next year. I am hoping to be able to show my son the whole metamorphosis process. This is something I can not get enough of.
If you're interested in giving it a try, here are some websites to get you started: The Butterfly House,
The Butterfly Site, and The Butterfly Website. It's helpful to do a specific search on butterfly gardens including your city or state.


  1. Imagine our suprise when we found out that the homeless like milkweed too. Save the metamorphosis talk for when your son hits puberty.

  2. Mike-
    This milkweed is powerful stuff. I'll keep my gate locked.