Butterflies play an important environmental function as they pollinate plants, allowing them to set seed and reproduce. South-west Australia has few native butterflies and those we do have are becoming less common as a result of habitat loss. Planting native plants can help conserve our butterflies, as well as many other native animal species.
There are four stages to a butterfly’s development: egg, caterpillar, chrysalis/pupa, butterfly. Each stage of development has different feeding and habitat requirements. Butterflies only lay eggs on an appropriate food source; the plant the caterpillar lives and feeds on is generally different to the plant the butterfly collects nectar from. At the end of the larval stage, caterpillars need a sturdy, sheltered place to attach and form a chrysalis.
Caterpillars Need Food Too!
Caterpillars bring birds and other animals into your garden. If you want this biodiversity, it may mean a few chewed leaves–but that’s not the end of the world. Caterpillars enjoy crepe myrtle, everlastings and native violets. For conservation, providing caterpillars with plants for food and shelter is more important than supplying nectar for butterflies since they are the plants that allow butterflies to breed!
Keep It Warm and Sunny
Butterflies and caterpillars need warmth to stay active so butterfly gardens should be in full sun. You can enhance your garden with stepping stones or a gravel path on which butterflies can bask. Include a few flowering or evergreen shrubs for shelter from wind and rain.
Avoid using chemicals and non-organic fertilisers in and around your garden as they may harm beneficial butterflies and poison animals. If you have a severe outbreak of a pest, it is usually because the ecological balance in your garden has been upset such as the extermination of natural predators by pesticides.
Beautiful butterflies you might see in your garden:
- Western Jewel (Hypochrysops halyaetus)
- Australian Painted Lady (Vanessa kershawi)
- Wedge Grass Skipper (Anisynta sphenosema)
- Monarch (Danaus plexippus)
- Pea-blue (Lampides boeticus)
- White-banded Grass-dart (Taractrocera papyria papyria)
- Spotted Jezebel (Delias aganippe)
Plants for a butterfly friendly garden:
- Western Australian Golden Wattle (Acacia saligna)
- Green Stinkwood (Jacksonia sternbergiana)
- Grevillea crithmifolia
- Geraldton Wax (Chamelaucium uncinatum)
- Pimelea ferruginea
- Red-eyed Wattle (Acacia cyclops)
- Coast spear-grass (Austrostipa flavescens)
- Feather Spear-grass (Austrostipa elegantissima)
- Native Wisteria (Hardenbergia sp.)