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Make a Butterfly Garden

A butterfly garden is a place butterflies love to flutter to. It takes just a few things to make one in your yard.

Ranger Rick
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Participant Age: 7 to 12, Under 7
Approximate Cost: $0
Duration: Over an hour
Difficulty:
Physical Challenge:
  • Fruit
  • Shallow pan
  • Plants/flowers (see below for recommendations)
  • A few rocks
  • Sugar, molasses, corn syrup, or honey
Get Nectar Flowers
  • Butterflies love nectar-producing flowers, especially those with red, yellow, orange, pink, or purple blossoms. They also prefer flowers that are flat-topped or that grow in clusters. Some flowers that fit the bill (or should we say proboscis?) include: asters, azaleas, black-eyed Susan, blazing stars, butterfly weed, cardinal flower, coreopsis, goldenrod, ironweed, milkweed, phlox, purple coneflowers, and sunflowers.
  • Choose a variety of plants that bloom at different times. That will keep your butterfly café open through spring, summer, and early fall.
Plant Your Flowers

Plant your flowers in a sunny spot that's also sheltered from the wind. Group plants so that lots of flowers grow close together.

Provide Water and Warmth
  • Fill a shallow pan with wet sand or mud and place it in a sunny area. Butterflies may land here to collect minerals as they sip.
  • Add a few rocks to give butterflies a place to rest and warm up in the sun.
Make a Fruity Mash

If you can't plant butterfly-attracting flowers, you can still bring butterflies to you by making a fruity mash that butterflies and moths can't resist. Mash any fruit with a sugar source (sugar, molasses, corn syrup, or honey) and let it sit for a few hours, then smear your mash on a surface in your yard that can be hosed off later. It’s best to put your mash in a semi-sunny area so it won’t dry out as quickly.

Observe the Butterflies
Try to answer the following questions:
  1. Which flowers are most popular? Check out whether certain kinds of butterflies seem to prefer visiting certain flowers.
  2. Do the butterflies' colors blend in or stand out? Are they more camouflaged with their wings open or closed?
  3. Can you identify the butterflies you spot? Note their size and shape, the colors and patterns on their wings, and how they fly. Then use a field guide to search for their names. You could also go online to butterfliesandmoths.org for lots of helpful information.
  4. Can you get close enough to watch a butterfly's long tongue unroll? Can you use a magnifying glass to see the tiny scales that cover its wings.

Snap some pictures and frame the best ones or make a book to show them off!


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  • Set up a light and a white screen, and you'll see all sorts of new bugs at night - like a bug movie.
  • It’s true, some “bugs” are bothersome, but plenty aren’t pests at all. Set off on a quest for the best kinds of bugs--and see who you meet! Then invite some to live in your yard.
  • Discover the many different types of animal homes.
  • Have the children paint their own pots, plant flowers, and take them home!
  • Recycle a plastic bottle into a temporary home for bugs so you can observe them, then set them free.

 

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