Q: How do I build a Butterfly Garden?

A: There are about 760 butterfly species in America and about 100 can be found in our state. Butterflies have often been described as one of nature’s most beautiful and intriguing insects. The fascinating transformation from caterpillar to butterfly can occur, with just a small amount of work right on your own balcony, patio, or in your backyard. You can create a special garden around your home for butterflies. A good butterfly habitat must provide food, water, shelter, and a place to reproduce. To be successful please try these simple guidelines:

1.Locate the garden in a sunny area. Butterflies are cold-blooded and prefer warm sunny areas, as do most of the flowering plants they feed on.

2.Plant nectar producing flowers, most butterflies found in Florida feed on flower nectar. Butterflies are generally attracted to brightly colored simple flowers.

3.Plant flowers in large groups with a variety of plants, to attract a greater variety of butterflies.

4.Provide host plants for the larva (caterpillar) to feed on. The milkweed will attract the monarch butterfly, and plants such as the passion flower can be host to many different butterflies one of these is our state butterfly, the yellow and black zebra longwing. You also must remember that these plants ultimately will be chewed when you are successful.

5.Please avoid the use of chemicals that will be harmful to caterpillars and butterflies. Adult butterflies also need water, so a good butterfly garden will provide a proper place to drink.

Additional Resources

Let’s talk about our insects in South Florida. Our plants should be examined weekly during the summer and fall.

The undersides of a few leaves on each plant should be checked and the stems observed for pests. Many insects merely rest on the plant and are neither pests nor beneficial. Only about 1% of all insects are considered pests on plants. There are also many insects that are beneficial and feed on harmful insects. It is important to know these beneficial bugs, so we can delay applying a pesticide to allow the good guys to control the bad pest population. Your next step may be to choose an organic control and there are many now available to use. All of these will help keep our pest damage low. Insecticides may be required to control insects and related pests when they reach damaging levels on landscape plants.

Remember the chemical you use should:

1: Control the insect you are spraying, so you need to know its name

2: Be safe to use on the host plant

3: Be applied the right way (through coverage) and the right time of day

4: Be the recommended amount and used the correct number of times to control the pest

August in South Florida is usually one of the hottest and wettest months of our year. When working in your yard please avoid the hottest parts of the day, look for shade, drink plenty of water and cover up. Try to spend a small amount of time every week outside in your yard or garden looking or checking for insect and fungus problems. Take a cool drink with you, do some light pruning (to fill that big yard garbage can with trimming waster) or fertilizing. Also please check your lawn for pests, they are easier to control if sprays are used when the infestation first starts. All of our problems happen quicker in the summer so we need to check more often. If you are unsure of your problem bring in some samples in a plastic bag we will be glad to help you. We are now allowed to water two days per week under our current water conservation rules. Thank you all for the job of conservation you have done these past few months. I thought I would give you some information on your sprinklers about how much water they can use. I called Bill Meredith from Windmill Sprinklers and Ron Shilton , who combined have almost 60 years in the sprinkler business. Most pop up sprinklers with a full head can put out about 4 gallons per minute (GPM). Sprinklers with half head coverage can put out about 2 GPM. The pop up sprinklers will cover a radius of about 15 feet. Also most pop up spray nozzle sprinklers are designed to deliver 1” of water per hour over the standard 15 foot radius. A broken ½ inch sprinkler line depending on water pressure can waste between 6 and 12 GPM.

Please check your sprinkler system for poor coverage or leaks, which could be costing you money.