To attract butterflies to your garden and have them stay a while you need to offer them a banquet fit for ... well, a butterfly. This needs to be in a warm protected area with plenty of sunshine as butterflies are cold-blooded and need warmth to fly and feed, mate and lay eggs.
This banquet would include an abundance of nectar served in flowers that are open and welcoming. If they provide a landing platform like daisies, all the better. We plant a range of colours, shapes and sizes to cater to all tastes.
Butterflies enjoy a wild meadow effect with a few weeds flowering, rather than a well-manicured setting. Let a corner go wild if you have to be neat and trim.
Some butterflies when they find a good source of nectar – a flowering shrub for instance – will guard their patch aggressively chasing off other butterflies that come to feed. Sometimes one will be so busy chasing others you wonder if it has time to feed itself!
We gradually planted more butterfly nectar flower varieties as we learnt which ones are most attractive to our Plateau butterflies. This in turn encouraged more butterflies to visit and stay a while in our garden.
This corner of flowering perennials is usually busy with butterflies
Even pot plants attract butterflies. A Caper White (on right) feeds on these Kalanchoe flowers
A Blue and a Skipper feeding on Verbena (Purple Top) flowers. The caterpillar of the Meadow Argus feeds on Verbena leaves.
Small butterflies like this Small Grass Yellow visit Clover flowers and Grass Blue larvae feed on the buds and leaves
The garden in Spring with Lavender, Forget-me-nots and Daisies visited by many butterflies
A feast of Forget-me-nots - loved by Macleay Swallowtails and others
As we are 800 metres above sea level our days are cooler than along the coastal strip. However if the sun is shining we will have butterflies visit our garden throughout the year. There is a big difference to the numbers we see in the cool months compared to the warm or hot months and to the hours butterflies are on the wing each day. In mid-summer we generally start seeing butterflies around 7.30 am and they fly until about 7.00 pm. In mid winter it is usually around 09.00 am and to only about 03.00 pm.
Out of interest here is a listing, made on our property, of butterfly sightings recorded in one hour in mid January 2016 over the midday period:
Skippers: 1 Spendid Ochre and approx 6 different Grass and Small Skippers
Nymps: 2 Australian Admirals, 1 Painted Lady, 1 Meadow Argus, 1 Milkweed, 2 Common Ringlets
Blues: approx 6 Grass Blues & 1 Imperial Hairstreak
Whites & Yellows:approx 30 Common Jezebels and 3 Cabbage Whites
If you wish to attract butterflies do not use pesticides in your garden as these will kill all insects - welcome and unwelcome, including butterfly caterpillars.
A weedy meadow on a Mt. Hyland property provides plenty of nectar for butterflies
Self-seeded Everlasting Daisies in our garden are a nectar source
Silver Xenicas on Paspalum seeds perhaps feeding on the sticky ergot fungus
As for beverages, nectar will suffice most butterflies but some also drink moisture from which they get minerals, like the Common Blue pictured drinking from our damp pavers after a summer rain shower. Others will drink from wet mud or sand (mud puddling) or sap oozing from trees and rotting fruit, etc.
A Common Grass Blue drinking from our damp pavers
Common Albatross mud puddling at Rosewood Creek, Thora
This Painted Lady is taking minerals from a rock on our property
A Caper White drinking from the freshly watered garden
It's not only the butterflies you need to cater for but their caterpillars as well. Each species will only eat their specific foodplant/s. The Caterpillar Foodplant page gives a list of the ones we are aware of in and around our property. The Butterfly pages also list their caterpillar foodplants. Some of these are easily grown in a garden; others are local forest plants.
A healthy crop of stinging nettles in early August waiting for an Australian Admiral to lay eggs
Sassafras (Doryphora sassafras) is a foodplant of the Macleay's Swallowtail caterpillar