Red admiralIt is always nice to see butterflies fly around in your garden. By planting the correct plants you can lure the butterflies to your garden. Don’t forget that there are no butterflies without caterpillars. That means that you have to accept that some plants or part of it will be eaten to maintain butterflies. That can also mean that you plant less good looking plants in your garden as food for the caterpillars. In this article I will give information about butterflies and caterpillars.

Butterflies feed on the nectar of flowers. If you put plants in your garden that produce a lot of nectar you will see butterflies soon enough. Examples of such plants are:
• butterfly bush (Buddleja)
• lavender (Lavendula)
• stonecrop (Sedum)
• asters (Symphyotrichum)
• hemp agrimony (Eupatorium cannabinum)
• vervain (Verbena)
• dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)
• creeping thistle (Cirsium arvense)
• coneflower (Echinacea)
Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia)
yellow ox-eye (Telekia speciosa)
Butterfly weed (Asclepias)

Apart from food for the butterflies you will also need food for the caterpillars (larva). Without any host plants for the caterpillars, then there will never be any butterflies. The most important and widely available host plant in Britain and Ireland is the common nettle (Utrica dioica) but also the small nettle (Utrica urens) and hop (Humulus lupulus) are eaten.

Some of the most common butterflies in the North America are:
• Eastern tiger swallowtail (Papilio glaucus)
• Black swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes)
• Cabbage white (Pieris rapae)
• Orange Sulphur (Colias eurytheme)
• Spring azure (Celastrina ladon)
• Mourning cloak (Nymphalis antiopa)
• Comma (Polygonia comma)
• Monarch (Danaus plexippus)
• Viceroy (Limenitis archippus)
• Grey hairstreak (Strymon melinus)

I have photographed the butterflies that I saw in my garden. See below those photographs and the name with some information about the butterflies. Most of the common butterflies in North America do not live in Europe. That means I cannot make photographs of those butterflies. If you have a photograph for me that I may use please do not hesitate to e-mail it to me.

I hope this information helps and that you can make your garden a paradise for butterflies.

Red admiral

Red admiralThe scientific name of the red admiral is Vanessa atalanta and this butterfly is a member of the Nymphalidae family. The red admiral can be found yearlong in warmer states and Mexico, but only in the summer months in the north. The red admiral is not only common in the Americas but also in Europe, Asia and the Caribbean.

The red admiral is a migrating butterfly. Every spring they migrate to the north. During their time in the north they can produce one or two broods from March through October. The new generation will migrate back to the south in October/November. They will not survive the winter in the colder regions.

Plants from the nettle family are the main host plants for the caterpillars and they feed mostly at night. The red admiral butterfly prefers to drink liquids from overripe/rotting fruit, tree sap and bird droppings but if those are not available they will drink nectar from flowers.

The larva hatches after about a week and pupates about a month later. The pupa stadium lasts about two weeks. The butterfly lives for about 8 months.


Painted lady

Painted ladyThe scientific name for the painted lady is Vanessa cardui and it is a member of the Nymphalidae family. Other names for the painted lady are cosmopolitan and thistle butterfly. The painted lady can be found all over the world except for south America and Antarctica.

The painted lady migrates from the deserts of northern Mexico to the United States and Canada in spring and back south in fall.

The host plants for the caterpillar are amongst others the thistle, cheeseweed and lupine. The butterflies drink nectar from many different flowers and aphids' honeydew, but not the sap of rotting fruit like the red admiral.

It looks like this butterfly does not hibernate but continuously migrates and reproduces. The journey from south to north and back is done by several generations of butterflies. As soon as the butterflies reaches a location suitable for reproduction they will mate and lay eggs.

The caterpillar hatches after about a week and pupates after about a month. The chrysalis stage lasts about a fortnight. The butterflies live for no longer than a month.

Cabbage white

Cabbage whiteCabbage whiteThe scientific name for the cabbage white is Pieris brassicae and it is a member from the Pieridae family. Other common names are cabbage butterfly, large white and cabbage moth.

The cabbage white is spread over a large area from Ireland to central Asia and China and from Scandinavia to North Africa and also from central Canada to the United States of America.

Many wild and cultivated members of the Brassicaceae or Cruciferae (both names are allowed) are the main food source for the caterpillars. Examples of such plants are cauliflower, cabbage, mustard and broccoli.

This butterfly hibernates as pupa hanging on tree trunks or walls. The butterflies live from April till July and from July till October in two generations. Sometimes there is even a third generation in September/October. They need a temperature of average 4º F (15 ºC).

Caterpillars hatch after about 2 weeks and pupate after about 3 to 4 weeks. The butterflies live for about 20 days.

Small cabbage white

Small cabbage white Henk BosmaSmall cabbage white Richard CarterThe scientific name for the small cabbage white is Pieris rapae and it is a member from the Pieridae family. Another name that is used for the Pieris rapae is small white.

Like the cabbage white the small cabbage white is spread over a large area from Ireland to Japan and North America and from Scandinavia to North Africa, Australia and New Zealand.

The small cabbage white hibernates as pupa hanging on tree trunks and walls. The butterflies live in 2 generations in southern Canada op to several generations in the southern states. These butterflies are also strong fliers like the large whites.

The small white uses the same host plants as the large whites but they choose smaller plant and in more shaded places. The caterpillars eat mostly during the day and from the heart of the plant.

The caterpillar hatches after about 1 week and pupates after about 3 weeks. The butterfly lives for about 3 weeks.