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Butterfly gardens cater to colorful, picky eaters

Butterflies are loved by most people, young and old. They seem to float through the air while displaying their many beautiful colors.

Butterfly gardens allow us to see more of these lovely creatures while giving us the additional benefit of enjoying the various flowers that will attract them.

Butterflies are arthropods and are included in the insect order lepidoptera. Their life cycle is in four very different phases.

First, the egg hatches into a caterpillar, which feeds on the leaf of the plant where it began. When the exoskeleton becomes too small, it is shed, and the pupa or chrysalis stage begins. Inside the chrysalis, many of the caterpillar structures dissolve and the butterfly shape begins.

After 10 to 15 days, the adult butterfly emerges to expose the magnificent species.

Each of the 760 species of butterflies in North America can fly for miles and are able to identify their favorite food from afar. Butterflies are considered picky eaters.

That’s where our butterfly gardens come in. It can be any size, so large spaces are not necessary.

The adult butterfly feeds from plant nectar, the sweet liquid in the flowers. Adults mate during the feeding period and the females lay eggs on appropriate plants. The butterflies are most attracted to purple, red, yellow, orange, blue and pink flowers that are in clusters or have flat tops with short flower tubes.

The area chosen for the garden is as equally important as color and shape. Full sun is necessary, as well as shelter from wind, heavy rain or other negative weather. A water source should be near.

Flat stones allow the butterflies a place to rest and to regulate their body temperature in the sun and heat. Wet sand or a muddy puddle provide salts and mineral rich liquid.

Choosing a variety of flowers that bloom throughout spring, summer and early fall will provide a continual food source. Differing heights will encourage both large and small butterflies to visit the garden. Minimal or no pesticides or herbicides should be used because some insects are actually beneficial, and also, the chemicals can be toxic to the butterflies.

Both annuals and perennials can be used. Asters, black-eyed Susan, milkweed, dianthus, phlox, coneflower, sedum, butterfly bush, coreopsis, cosmos, goldenrod, marigold, zinnia and lantana are a few of the many.

For plans and details for your butterfly garden, go to http://go.osu.edu/butterfly

For more details on plants for your butterfly garden, go to: http://go. osu.edu/attractbutter flies

Dolak is an Ohio State University Mahoning County Extension Master Gardener volunteer.

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