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Simple ways to attract butterflies to your yard this summer
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A butterfly lands on flowers at Dahlonega Butterfly Farm on Thursday, May 30, 2019. - photo by Austin Steele

As the summer cranks up the heat, the butterflies come out to play. 

“Butterflies are cold-blooded, they like it hot,” Jo Ann Goldenburg, owner of Dahlonega Butterfly Farm said. “We typically start seeing them after May and more so as the summer gets even warmer.”

Planting flowers may bring a couple of butterflies to your yard, but if you’re wanting to attract a kaleidoscope of fluttering friends, you need a different strategy.

Goldenburg, who raises and cares for butterflies on a day-to-day basis, shared her tips and tricks for luring these delicate insects into your yard.

Nectar and host plant

To start a butterfly garden, Goldenburg said people need two ingredients: nectar and host plants.

“You put in nectar plants for the adult butterflies, and then you want host plants for the female to lay her eggs,” she said.

Goldenburg recommends planting native nectar plants like black-eyed susans, milkweed, purple coneflower, joe-pye weed, lantana and other flowering perennials.  

The host plants not only give female butterflies a place to lay their eggs, but they offer caterpillars a source of food.

Goldenburg said her favorite host plants for attracting year-round and migratory butterflies include milkweed for drawing monarchs; passion vine for gulf fritillary; bronze fennel and tulip trees for Eastern black swallowtail; and wild cherry and plum trees for red-spotted purple butterflies.

“It you plant it, they will come,” Goldenburg said. 

For a successful butterfly garden, Goldenburg always keeps a water feature, no matter how small, near the nectar and host plants. 

Butterflies gather nutrients from dirt, which is called “puddling.” Goldenburg recommends creating a mud pie by placing dirt, rocks and sea salt into a plate, and then filling the container with water just beneath the line of stones.

“You can hang the plate, set it inside a bird bath — you can be as creative as you want,” she said. “Butterflies like the minerals that come out of the ground. If you ever see a bunch of butterflies in a group on the ground after it rains, that’s what they’re doing.”

Butterflies to look out for this summer

Goldenburg said North Georgia is home to four species of swallowtail butterflies including the Eastern tiger swallowtail, Eastern black swallowtail, spicebush swallowtail and zebra swallowtail. Common buckeyes, the brown butterflies with large eye-like spots, also reside locally.

In August and September, Goldenburg said people can expect to see monarchs come through Georgia for their migration back to Florida.

One of her most cherished native groups are the fritillary butterflies, which typically boast bright orange hues and silver markings under their wings.

Goldenburg said she especially keeps an eye out for the great spangled butterfly, a species of rare fritillary in Georgia. 

“They’re one of the largest in the United States,” she said. “They can have a wingspan of 4.5 inches, and they’re bright orange, brown and silver. They’re an amazing kind of woodland butterfly.”

If you’re looking to purchase a native host plant and get a jump-start on a butterfly garden, visit the Dahlonega Butterfly Farm, located at 427 Castleberry Bridge Road in Dawsonville. Its hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Friday through Sunday. 

Dahlonega Butterfly Farm

Where: 427 Castleberry Bridge Road, DawsonvilleHours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Friday-Sunday

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