Butterflies are essential in our environment because they pollinate plants. They’re also a good sign that your garden ecosystem is not just surviving, it’s thriving!
South-west Australia has few native butterfly species and those we do have are disappearing as a result of habitat loss. Planting the right native species 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, and butterfly – and each stage of development has different feeding and habitat requirements.
Butterflies only lay eggs on an appropriate, ready food source so that the emerging caterpillar has enough food to grow fat and strong for the extraordinary transformation ahead of it.. At the end of the larval stage, caterpillars need a sturdy, sheltered place to attach and form a chrysalis.
Caterpillars Need Food Too!
A few chewed leaves are not the end of the world, when you consider what caterpillars bring to your garden (birds and reptiles). It’s a small price to pay for biodiversity!
Caterpillars particularly enjoy crepe myrtle, everlastings and native violets.
Remember! The plant the caterpillar lives and feeds on is generally different to the plant the adult butterfly collects nectar from. From a conservation standpoint, 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! And of course, adult butterflies can fly out of our garden to get their nectar-fix!
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 to get heat from above and below. 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 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). A garden ecosystem in balance will have its own natural bio-controls.
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)
- Green Carpet (Grevillea crithmifolia)
- Geraldton Wax (Chamelaucium uncinatum)
- Rice Flower (Pimelea ferruginea)
- Red-eyed Wattle (Acacia cyclops)
- Coast spear-grass (Austrostipa flavescens)
- Feather spear-grass Austrostipa elegantissima)
- Native Wisteria (Hardenbergia sp.)
Download the Butterfly-friendly Gardens Information Sheet (PDF).