Butterfly Behavior to Watch in the Garden
Observing butterflies in the garden is a great
way to learn about them!
What Flowers/Shrubs Attract Butterflies?
This Butterfly Is Eating Nectar
a Flower. Do You See the Proboscis(Feeding Straw)?
As you may know already, most species of
butterflies use flower nectar as their main
source of food. The use of the sugary
nectar gives the butterflies energy and allows
them to fly, so stocking up on flowers is
going to be a great idea. Now the
question may come up; what flowers attract the
Well, wild flowers, cultivated flowers
(perennials and annuals) and even some shrubs
are a fantastic start! Lilac bushes,
blueberry bushes, privets, sumacs, butterfly
weed, chrysanthemums, daises, purple
coneflower, bergamots, black-eyes Susan,
dogbane, goldenrods and even purple ageratum
are all flowers/shrubs that will attract
butterflies for your observation to your
Butterfly Behavior in the Garden: Basking
Butterfly basking to warm up.
Now that you know the flowers/shrubs that
will attract these beautiful creatures, there
are now a few things that you can observe
about the butterfly while they are in their
own natural habitat. For instance, did
you know that butterflies are cold-blooded
creatures? This is one of the main
reasons why you will sometimes see a butterfly
basking under the sun’s heat.
Butterflies fly at their very best when the
air temperatures range from seventy-five all
the way to ninety degrees. The reason
for this is that they do not have to stop and
warm their wings up. If the winds are
cooler, you will often see many butterflies
perched on flowers or leaves in the sun,
usually laying them flat down and facing
upward at the sun so they can get the best
exposure. This is not the only type of
basking that butterflies do, there are a few
Black Swallowtail butterfly perching.
Butterfly basking to warm up.
The most common basking for the Satyrs (Satyridae)
and the Sulphurs (Pieridae) is basking with
their wings folded and facing the sun.
This is usually because the underbelly of
their wings is darker; therefore it absorbs
more heat when the wings are folded.
The final form of basking is known as
reflectance and this is used when the
butterfly want to reflect the sunlight to
their body versus just their wings. Usually,
the butterfly’s body is much darker than
their wings, so it makes since for them to
reflect the sunlight to their body versus
their wings sometimes.
Butterfly Behavior in the Garden: Puddling,
Patrolling and Perching
The three P’s in butterfly behavior are puddling,
patrolling and perching. You have
probably seen all three of these actions when
you have observed your butterflies but you
most likely had no idea what these beautiful
creatures were doing.
First and foremost, puddling is when quite
a few butterflies congregate at the wet edge
of sandy areas or mud puddles. Since
flowers are butterflies main source of food,
there is not a lot of nutrients in flower
nectar. Puddling is when males (mostly)
get together and feast on extra salts and
other nutrient found in the water around sand.
These nutrients are then passed through the
male’s sperm when they mate and the female
uses these same nutrients to reproduce.
The patrolling and perching activities all
have to do with mating. Usually, the
mate butterflies will seek out the female
butterflies. This act is called
patrolling and while butterflies do not have
sharp vision, when a male spots a female that
he may want to mate with, he swoops down on
the perched female. If the female is
indeed of the males species, this is where the
courting ritual comes into play.
Now, not all of the butterfly species go
through the patrolling ritual, the Mourning
Cloak, Black Swallowtail and the Red Admiral
are just three of the butterflies that
‘perch’ instead. Instead, they will
perch themselves on tall plants right along a
stream or a ridge. The males will wait
for the females to come and as soon as these
perched males spots one of the females, he
will begin his courtship.
As you can see, observing butterflies in
the garden is a great way to learn about a
species you may have not known anything
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