Attracting Butterflies

# 8

Local North Queensland information for Local North Queenslanders.

Most people have a few butterflies in their garden from time to time, but if you want to have them permanently you have to plant special plants…

picture-13Each butterfly has only a few, SPECIFIC plants that their caterpillars feed on. These are called the HOST PLANTS or FOOD PLANTS of the particular butterfly, not to be confused with the plants that the adult butterflies obtain nectar from.

The female butterfly seeks out her specific host plant and deposits her eggs on it. The eggs hatch into caterpillars which feed on the leaves of the host plant before pupating into a chrysalis and finally hatching into a new adult butterfly.

So, if you want the butterflies to breed in your garden, you must have the specific host plant for each particular butterfly you wish to attract.

NECTAR PLANTS – for adult butterflies

Almost all butterflies, as adults, feed on nectar. It is not usually necessary to plant special plants to supply nectar, as the adult butterflies will usually use whatever is flowering at the time. A few plants though do produce flowers which are very attractive to butterflies.

picture-23Some of these are:

  • Callistemons
  • Melicope
  • Leea

One exception is the beautiful Tailed Emperor butterfly. It feeds on rotten fruit, sap and dead animals. Adults of the Tailed Emperor can be attracted by mixing stale beer and bananas in a tray, and sitting it on a post.

HOST (FOOD) PLANTS – for caterpillars

If you purchase more than one host plant for a particular butterfly you should plant them as far apart from each other as possible to encourage the female butterfly to fly from one end of your garden to the other.

There are a number of butterflies which you can easily attract to your garden. Some of these are:

Cairns Birdwing, Ulysses Butterfly, Australian Rustic, Blue Triangle and Orchard Swallowtail.dark-blue-ulysses-with-pink-flower

To attract these butterflies you will need to plant the following plants:

  • Aristolochia tagala (to attract the Cairns Birdwing). This is a vine which should be planted so that it can climb over a tree since the caterpillar needs the shelter of a tree to hide when moulting and making its chrysalis.
  • Melicope elleryana (a tree) & Melicope rubra (a shrub) are both host plants for the beautiful Ulysses Butterfly. Flowers of both plants also attract numerous birds and other butterflies.
  • Flacourtia sp. Cape Plum is the host plant for the orange Australian Rustic butterfly. This butterfly is very visible in a garden as it does not wander very far and likes to sit in the sun.
  • Beilschmiedia obtusifolia and most other native Laurels such as Cryptocarya and Endiandra are the host plants for the Blue Triangle Butterfly.
  • Micromelum minutum and other plants in the Citrus family are hosts for the large and highly visible Orchard Swallowtail butterfly.
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Butterfly Host Plant
Cairns Birdwing Aristolochia tagala
Ulysses Butterfly Melicope elleryana & Melicope rubra
Australian Rustic Flacourtia sp. Cape Plum
Blue Triangle Beilschmiedia obtusifolia & other native Laurels
Lemon Migrant &
Tailed Emperor
Native Cassia spp.
Red Lacewing &
Cruiser Butterflies
Adenia heterophylla
Orchard Swallowtail Micromelum, Melicope & other native members of the citrus family
Green Spotted
Butterfly
Members of the Anonaceae family
Banded Demon Alpina caerulea
Four o’clock Moth Carallia brachiata

Browse our current Butterfly Food Plants stock list.

The information provided here on this Information Sheet is of a general nature only, and is not intended to provide specific advice about any individual’s specific situation.