Fair Exhibit Shows How To Attract Butterflies

Terry L. Foster, Van Osdell, Mary Ann  |  12/5/2007 2:33:59 AM

News Release distributed 11/27/07

Butterfly gardening is a rewarding hobby that creates a calming effect, Wendy Babiak of Shreveport said as she observed a butterfly garden at the State Fair of Louisiana.

Babiak, a Master Gardener who has a “wildlife oasis smack in the middle of Broadmoor,” a Shreveport subdivision, helped put together an LSU AgCenter fair exhibit on how gardening can be used to attract butterflies.

It was one of the educational exhibits in the Agricultural Building, said Terry Foster, LSU AgCenter agent in Bossier Parish, who put the garden together with Babiak’s help.

A netted area at the fair was home to 80 butterflies, including the Monarch and Gulf fritillary. A notebook described them and other species and their host plants. Garrison’s Greenwood Gardens donated most of the plants, and the Louisiana State Exhibit Museum provided the milkweeds.

The fluttering of butterflies produces unequaled splendor and motion, Babiak said.

“It has been great to see a child pointing upward with his jaw open,” Babiak said, adding that many grownups had the same reaction to the exhibit.

“Butterflies are visual art, eye candy, and beneficial insects,” Babiak said.

In addition to plants, nectar and water are important in attracting butterflies. Water must be in a place that is not deep so the butterflies can comfortably rest and drink. Because butterflies cannot drink from open water, Babiak recommends sinking a shallow pan in the ground or using a birdbath.

Some butterflies like the juice from fruit, so rather than throwing away leftover fruit or the peeling, place them in the garden, Babiak said. Bananas and watermelon are tasty treats and a nutritious source of sweet syrup for energy, she added.

Butterfly gardens can be planted in a small backyard or acres of space. Lantana in containers can attract butterflies if space is limited. Gardeners can increase the area over time, according to Babiak.

To begin planning, she said, make a rough sketch of where you plan to place the flower beds, shrubs or flowering trees in view of windows, doors or the porch so you can enjoy the plants and butterflies from inside your house.

Butterflies are cold-blooded insects and depend on warmth from the sun for energy and to maintain proper body temperature, Babiak said. Sun also enhances their wing color. A location that receives several hours of sun is best for nectar-producing flowers.

Plants attractive to butterflies are deciduous and evergreen trees and shrubs, such as the pawpaw tree, native maypop passion vines and annual and perennial flowers.

A well-drained location is necessary for most plants, depending on where you live, Babiak said. Be sure to have a soil sample analyzed before planting.

The LSU AgCenter offers a routine soil test package from its Plant Analysis Laboratory that provides fertilizer recommendations to meet planting needs. Sample boxes and instructions are available from LSU AgCenter parish extension offices.

The fair ended Nov. 18, and the remaining butterflies were donated to educators to rear in their classrooms to explain the insect’s life cycle.


Terry Foster at (318) 965-2326, or tfoster@agcenter.lsu.edu

Writer: Mary Ann Van Osdell at (318) 741-7430, ext. 1104, or mvanosdell@agcenter.lsu.edu

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