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Attracting Wildlife to Your Back Yard

A Guide to Increasing Wildlife Diversity and Aesthetic Value Around Your Home

Appendix B. Additional Butterfly Information


Dr. Ron Royer of Minot is a butterfly expert.  He has developed an internet site entitled, Atlas of North Dakota Butterflies. This site includes pictures and can be found at: www.npwrc.usgs.gov/resource/dist/lepid/bflynd/bflynd.htm. Ron also has published Butterflies of North Dakota which includes colored plates, range maps and general biological information.

The following is a very brief overview of butterflies taken from a conversation with Dr. Royer:

As a general rule, most environmentally sensitive and conservation-important butterflies prefer white and pink/purple/red blooms to yellow ones (e.g., Cirsium, Monarda, and Echinacea are much better than Ratibida and Rudbeckia). My usual advice to butterfly gardening aspirants is to prefer native to exotic or highly bred garden ornamentals (despite the most prolific and more showy nature of the latter), because the adult appearance of many native butterfly species is phenologically coordinated with the rather specific nectar (i.e., "fuel") sources. A good example is the June emergence of the conservation-sensitive grass skippers (Hesperia dacotae and ottoe, Polites origenes, and Atrytone arogos) in time with the seasonal bloom of such species as Echinaces, Lilium, and Zygadenus.

Among traditional garden ornamentals, composites (e.g., marigolds and zinnias) are by far the most productive butterfly attractors in terms of overall species richness of butterfly visitations.

Then there is the issue of larval foodplants (actually far more important to the conservation of native butterfly species). Unfortunately, most everything butterflies prefer, gardeners do not (e.g., nettles, thistles, etc.).

Skippers - unmowed native prairie grasses and native legumes (Locoweed,etc.).

Swallowtails - umbellifers (carrots, dill, parsley)

Whites and sulphurs - crucifers and legumes (i.e., food crops)

Lycaenids - docks, pinkweed, wild buckwheats, native legumes (e.g., Thermopsis, Oxytropis, Lupinus, etc.)

Brushfoots - "weeds" generally, including representatives of just about every plant family, including nettles, various wild asters, and so forth.

Satyrs and Nymphs - native grasses and sedges

Unless one is willing to sustain a one-acre native prairie or native woodlot in the yard (including most of the plant species that the usual lawn-grower 2-4-Ds to death), flowers are likely to attract mostly garden pests (cabbage butterflies, alfalfa butterflies, and so forth). The same unfortunately, is true to CRP land. This, of course, is why butterflies are such good indicators of undisturbed native habitats - they can tell far better than we when a place has been "disturbed". Typically they do so by being absent.

The best butterfly habitat in cities is found in long-vacant lots that most citizens describe as "eyesores". Why? Precisely because they are not "managed," but rather "neglected" for long enough that "weeds" get firmly established.
Previous Section -- Appendix A. Trees, Shrubs, Vines and Ground Cover Recommendations 
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Next Section -- Appendix C. Native Plant Seed Sources and Information
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The Registry of Nature Habitats
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