Creating a monarch
Plant native flowering plants - Because many butterflies and native flowering plants have co-evolved over time and depend on each other for survival and reproduction, it is particularly important to install native flowering plants local to your geographic area. Native plants provide butterflies with the nectar or foliage they need as adults and caterpillars. The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center has lists of recommended native plants by region and state. Another great resource for butterfly-friendly plants is plantbutterflies.org.
Plant type and color is important - Adult butterflies are attracted to red, yellow, orange, pink and purple blossoms that are flat-topped or clustered and have short flower tubes.
Plant good nectar sources in the sun - Your key butterfly nectar source plants should receive full sun from mid-morning to mid-afternoon. Butterfly adults generally feed only in the sun. If sun is limited in your landscape, try adding butterfly nectar sources to the vegetable garden.
Plant for continuous bloom - Butterflies need nectar throughout the adult phase of their life span. Try to plant so that when one plant stops blooming, another begins.
Say no to insecticides - Insecticides such as malathion, Sevin, and diazinon are marketed to kill insects. Don't use these materials in or near the butterfly garden or better, anywhere on your property. Even "benign" insecticides, such as Bacillus thuringiensis, are lethal to butterflies (while caterpillars).
Feed butterfly caterpillars - If you don't "grow" caterpillars, there will be no adults. Bringing caterpillar foods into your garden can greatly increase your chances of attracting unusual and uncommon butterflies, while giving you yet another reason to plant an increasing variety of native plants. In many cases, caterpillars of a species feed on only a very limited variety of plants. Most butterfly caterpillars never cause the leaf damage we associate with some moth caterpillars such as bagworms, tent caterpillars, or gypsy moths.
Provide a place for butterflies to rest - Butterflies need sun for orientation and to warm their wings for flight. Place flat stones in your garden to provide space for butterflies to rest and bask in the sun.
Give them a place for puddling - Butterflies often congregate on wet sand and mud to partake in "puddling," drinking water and extracting minerals from damp puddles. Place coarse sand in a shallow pan and then insert the pan in the soil of your habitat. Make sure to keep the sand moist.
Milkweed (subfamily Asclepiadoideae) serves as the host plant for monarch butterflies. Adult female monarchs lay eggs on the underside of milkweed leaves so that, after the caterpillars hatch, they will have a readily available supply of food as they grow.
When milkweed is plentiful, the female monarch butterfly will lay one egg on each milkweed plant to ensure that each caterpillar has enough to eat. When milkweed is scarce, she might lay several eggs on one plant. This situation, called “egg dumping” is not ideal since it results in competition among caterpillars for limited food resources.
Milkweed contains toxins called cardenolides, which disable a vital sodium-potassium pump enzyme if they are absorbed into the blood in most animals. Monarch butterfly caterpillars have evolved the ability to store these toxins after ingesting milkweed. This makes the caterpillars and adult monarch butterfly poisonous to birds and other predators.
Many beautiful varieties of milkweed exist. Some are best suited for meadows and “wilder” spaces, while others make a lovely addition to the residential garden.