Gardening for Butterflies: How You Can Attract and Protect Beautiful, Beneficial Insects

Gardening for Butterflies: How You Can Attract and Protect Beautiful, Beneficial Insects

by The Xerces Society

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“No matter the size or shape of your growing area, this will guide you through creating a butterfly-friendly space.” —Mother Earth News

Welcome the world’s most exquisite visitors to your garden! Gardening for Butterflies, by the experts at the Xerces Society, introduces you to a variety of butterflies who need our help, and shows you how to design a habitat where they will thrive. This optimistic call to arms is packed with everything you need to create a beautiful, pollinator-friendly garden. You will learn why butterflies matter, why they are in danger, and what simple steps we can take to make a difference. You'll also learn how to choose the right plants and how to create a garden that flutters and flourishes with life.


Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781604697612
Publisher: Timber Press, Incorporated
Publication date: 03/15/2016
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 288
Sales rank: 1,092,356
File size: 61 MB
Note: This product may take a few minutes to download.

About the Author

The Xerces Society is a nonprofit organization based in Portland, Oregon, that protects wildlife through the conservation of invertebrates and their habitat. Established in 1971, the Society is at the forefront of invertebrate protection worldwide, harnessing the knowledge of scientists and the enthusiasm of citizens to implement conservation programs. They are the authors of 100 Plants to Feed the BeesFarming with Native Beneficial Insects, and Attracting Native Pollinators.   

Read an Excerpt

Preface: Butterfly Gardeners Can Change the World

A couple of us writing this book grew up during the last gasp of the American muscle car. We have teenage memories of rocketing in Plymouth Barracudas and Chevy Novas down old country roads in the Midwest and the Great Plains. Even a short drive back then resulted in hundreds of dead bugs splattered across the grille, so we were always washing those cars. Returning to our teenage haunts today with a few gray hairs, vastly more fuel-efficient cars, and the lens of professional conservationists, we are awestruck by the lack of bugs. Drive across the entire state of North Dakota, Nebraska, or Iowa now, and your car will be practically spotless when you get to the other side. Animals, including insects, are disappearing.

A global assessment of wildlife populations in 2014 released by the World Wide Fund for Nature and the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) found that the sheer number vertebrates on earth had declined by more than 50 percent since 1970. While the ZSL report did not assess insect populations, irrefutable evidence of their decline and clear examples of insect extinctions can be found. Many of the rare insects have always been rare, but now once-common insects are becoming rare as well. The most striking example of this is the iconic monarch butterfly, whose population has declined by 80 percent across North America since monitoring efforts began in the mid-1990s.

Loss and degradation of habitat is driving this disappearing act. Urban landscapes divide up, pave over, and fragment formerly green spaces. Agriculture favors fewer types of crops, leaves fewer edges unplowed and untrampled, and tolerates ever fewer “pests.” The wild places that remain bear the indignities of invasive species, climate uncertainties, and hardscrabble resource extraction such as mining and logging. The net result is that 7 billion humans have finally created a fully human-dominated world.

Despite the biodiversity crisis unfolding in real time all around us, we believe that butterflies and other animals can have a secure future. However, such a future will require reconciliation between the human environment and a more natural one. Policies that could accelerate such a reconciliation are desperately needed. At the same time, as individuals we cannot simply stand by and do nothing while we wait for those policies. At least in the case of butterflies, every one of us who gardens has the potential to change the world.

This book is designed to be a blueprint for that change. Whether you live in California’s Central Valley, upstate New York, or the panhandle of Texas, you can play a critical role right now in saving the earth’s butterflies. You don’t need a large space. A small yard with just a few native plants can attract and sustain dozens of butterfly species. And beyond aiding butterflies, your yard can become a wildlife refuge for all of the creatures that pollinate crops and wildflowers in your region. Your efforts will support countless other creatures as well, from lady beetles to songbirds. The insect populations that grow and thrive in native grasses and forbs around your patio will increase in number and disperse, and their descendants will ultimately go on to feed fish and bears and bats. If you manage larger landscapes, the gardening concepts described in this book can easily be scaled up to provide habitat on roadsides or in parks and natural areas.

Finally, when you share what you do, your garden can become a platform for science education, connecting kids to the amazing life cycle of butterflies, from caterpillars and their host plants to the incredible process of metamorphosis, to the colorful adults drinking nectar from equally colorful flowers; this exposure can build a new generation of conservationists. Similarly, by sharing your efforts with neighbors, other gardeners, community groups, and local conservation agencies, you are giving those people a living template to inspire their own efforts. You are changing expectations about what our human-dominated landscapes should look like; you are exposing gigantic manicured lawns and insecticides as embarrassingly uncool; you are creating a world where it is no longer weird to be the person with the overgrown, wildflower-filled yard and instead making it weird to not be that person.

When you create this world, you will bring back the butterflies, the other bugs, and ultimately all of the animals that have become so absent from our lives. Who would have thought that some simple landscaping could do all of that?

Table of Contents

Foreword Robert Michael Pyle 6

Preface: Butterfly gardeners can change the world 8

Why butterflies matter-and why they are in trouble 13

Knowing butterflies and what they need 37

Designing your butterfly garden 69

Butterfly garden plants of North America 105

Plant selection, installation, and maintenance 193

Gardening for moths 217

Helping butterflies beyond the garden fence 241

Observing and enjoying butterflies 255

Metric conversions 268

Additional resources 269

Suggested reading 272

Acknowledgments 275

Photography credits 276

Index 277


Portland, Oregon

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