Local North Queensland information for Local North Queenslanders.
Most people have a few butterflies in their garden from time to time, but if you want to have them permanently you have to plant special plants…
Each butterfly has only a few, SPECIFIC plants that their caterpillars feed on. These are called the HOST PLANTS or FOOD PLANTS of the particular butterfly, not to be confused with the plants that the adult butterflies obtain nectar from.
The female butterfly seeks out her specific host plant and deposits her eggs on it. The eggs hatch into caterpillars which feed on the leaves of the host plant before pupating into a chrysalis and finally hatching into a new adult butterfly.
So, if you want the butterflies to breed in your garden, you must have the specific host plant for each particular butterfly you wish to attract.
NECTAR PLANTS – for adult butterflies
Almost all butterflies, as adults, feed on nectar. It is not usually necessary to plant special plants to supply nectar, as the adult butterflies will usually use whatever is flowering at the time. A few plants though do produce flowers which are very attractive to butterflies.
Some of these are:
One exception is the beautiful Tailed Emperor butterfly. It feeds on rotten fruit, sap and dead animals. Adults of the Tailed Emperor can be attracted by mixing stale beer and bananas in a tray, and sitting it on a post.
HOST (FOOD) PLANTS – for caterpillars
If you purchase more than one host plant for a particular butterfly you should plant them as far apart from each other as possible to encourage the female butterfly to fly from one end of your garden to the other.
There are a number of butterflies which you can easily attract to your garden. Some of these are:
Cairns Birdwing, Ulysses Butterfly, Australian Rustic, Blue Triangle and Orchard Swallowtail.
To attract these butterflies you will need to plant the following plants:
- Aristolochia tagala (to attract the Cairns Birdwing). This is a vine which should be planted so that it can climb over a tree since the caterpillar needs the shelter of a tree to hide when moulting and making its chrysalis.
- Melicope elleryana (a tree) & Melicope rubra (a shrub) are both host plants for the beautiful Ulysses Butterfly. Flowers of both plants also attract numerous birds and other butterflies.
- Flacourtia sp. Cape Plum is the host plant for the orange Australian Rustic butterfly. This butterfly is very visible in a garden as it does not wander very far and likes to sit in the sun.
- Beilschmiedia obtusifolia and most other native Laurels such as Cryptocarya and Endiandra are the host plants for the Blue Triangle Butterfly.
- Micromelum minutum and other plants in the Citrus family are hosts for the large and highly visible Orchard Swallowtail butterfly.