Butterfly feeding habits:

Adult butterflies feed on flower nectar using it as an energy source for flight and egg production. Some butterflies also are attracted to moist soil at the edges of puddles and ponds.   They may also feed on fermenting sap exuding from tree wounds. They will rest, hidden in foliage of plants, during the nights and on cloudy or rainy days.

Bait stations can enhance a butterfly garden. Use fermented or sweet liquids made from bananas or other cut fruit, brown sugar, beer or yeast. Paint on tree trucks or place in dishes. Bates attract hackberry butterflies, tawny emperors and other brush-footed butterflies.

Small bits of rotting fruit are good food sources for adult butterflies.

Caterpillars feed only on specific host plants and weeds. For example, monarchs lay their eggs on the common milkweed or butterfly weed. Parsley, dill and fennel are nurseries for the black swallowtail larvae. Passionflower vines will be chomped on by the gulf fritillary caterpillar.

Several species of butterflies such as monarchs, cloudless sulfurs and snout butterflies migrate during the late summer and fall. Plants that flower throughout the summer and into mid to late autumn (Oct – Nov) attract migrating butterflies.

Here is a list of some the plants that are either nectar or nursery (host) plants you can use to attract butterflies to your garden:

White mist flower (Eupatorium wrightii)

Blue mist flower (Eupatorium greggi)

Lantana spp..

Scarlett sage (Salvia coccinea)

Indigo spires sage (Salvia x “Indigo spires’)

Butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa)

Mexican mint marigold (Tagetes lucida)

Common button bush (Cephalanthus occidentalis)

Gayfeather (Liatris spp.)

Butterfly bush (Buddleja spp)

Penta or Egyptian Star Cluster (Penta lanceolata)

Abelia spp.

Salvia spp.

Globe Amaranth (Gomphrena spp.)


The use of insecticides will kill most butterflies and their caterpillars. If pests such as aphids, whitefly, mealy bugs or spider mites are a problem try using biological controls such as lady beetles, lacewings, and praying mantis as a first defense. If you must resort to using a control apply insecticidal soap or horticultural oils only on the affected area. Widespread application will certainly kill butterflies or caterpillars, too. Some herbicides may have a negative effect on your butterfly populations, also.


Look for these books to learn more about butterflies and butterfly gardening:

                Butterflies of Oklahoma, Kansas, and North Texas by John M. Dole, Walter B. Gerard

and John M. Nelson, 2004.

Butterfly Gardening for the South by G. Ajilvsgi, 1990.

                Landscape Plants for Texas and Environs by M.A. Arnold, 1999.

                A Field Guide to Common Texas Insects by B.M. Drees and J.A. Jacksman, 1998.

                A Field Guide to Butterflies of Texas by R.A. Neck, 1996.

                The Butterfly Garden by M. Tekulsky, 1985.

                Native Texas Plants Landcaping Region by Region by S. Wasowski and A. Wasowski, 1997.