How to attract Butterflies to your Garden

“But these are flowers that fly…” ~Robert Frost

IDE 064f you know me by now, you know that when I walk into nature, I feel connected to my Soul. I know that by simply going outside & tuning into the natural world around me, I will be presented with beautiful moments of inspiration and splendor.

That is exactly what happened to me on this day. I have been spending a lot of time at The Agricultural Farm Park in Derwood, Maryland this summer while working as a Master Gardener. It is a beautiful place where time seems to stand still. Whenever I am here, I am reminded of the warm childhood memories of summer days spent on our good friend’s dairy farm. I love to walk this property which is filled with numerous natural surprises, if you are open to them. And, you know I am.

While I was exploring, I came across this fantastic little brook. You can easily drive by it as you travel to and from the administrative building and never know of its enchanting qualities. The sparkle of the water always catches my eye as I drive by. It glimmers in the sun as it rambles over the shallows of a gravel pathway made for the farm equipment to pass through. I have seen flights of butterflies dancing over it & Great Blue Herons fishing in it. I knew that I had to take the time to stop and get closer.

The Babbling Brook

I wanted to share this moment with you. I hope you will take just a few minutes to connect to nature with me. Let it be a much-deserved break in your day or a few minutes of natural meditation that will help center you. It is also a great soundtrack in the background as you continue to read.

The first thing I noticed was the wonderful sound of the babbling brook. I was quietly enjoying the peace of that moment when I looked across the water to see a large group of tiger swallowtail butterflies mud-puddling on the other side. I had learned about the puddling behavior of butterflies years ago. I even have shallow trays of sand in my garden which is kept wet just for the butterflies, though I have to say I have not seen this many butterflies in them all at one time. So, I recognized what was going on here and I knew this was my opportunity to capture & share this interesting behavior with you. While I was observing them, I noticed horse manure on the bank where the butterflies were gathering. I knew that they were attracted to the dung (which I do not add to my garden butterfly puddlers, as you can imagine).

A Butterfly Puddle Party

I quickly focused my camera on the group of butterflies and took a few pictures. As I quietly approached them, I noticed that they were doing a funny “shake” on the ground, almost in unison. I turned my camera to video mode. It was a hot day and the sun was bright. I couldn’t see the details of the image I was recording through the lens, but I could focus on making sure I got the group of insects in the shot. I took several short videos before making my way back to my car.

As is always the case, mother nature gave me a great surprise. While I was downloading the images, I was fascinated by the details caught on film. What I couldn’t see with the naked eye was the “shaking” the butterflies were doing was actually a result of the puddling process.

Puddling in a group is a behavior typical of young male butterflies. Females may puddle on occasion, but tend not to congregate. The butterflies suck up the moisture from the puddle through their proboscis and siphon out sodium ions and amino acids which are used in the reproduction process. While using their bodies as a filtration system, they then excrete the extra water left over from this process. This is the surprise I caught on tape.

Look closely at the video and you can see the butterflies probe the sand for water, take in what they need and excrete the excess.

Once again, when you are open to nature, you will be rewarded with moments of inspiration and splendor.

Though this cool moment was captured on a property with a creek running through it, you may have a shallow water source already on your property where you can add sand or let it go muddy for the sake of the butterflies. A low spot in the yard that tends to stay wet or a shallow part of a pond or lake where they can enjoy the water’s edge.

I will be adding more details about how to attract butterflies to your backyard soon. Be sure to sign up for updates via email or Facebook, so you will know when the new information has been added.

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