Why Native Plants Part 3 - Do you like butterflies?
Updated: Apr 30, 2021
Peck’s skipper on coneflower, sipping nectar with its long proboscis. Photo by Peeter Poldre, 2021.
Do you like butterflies? Me too.
And do you like hummingbirds? Me too.
If you want butterflies and hummingbirds in your yard, you can offer food that butterflies and hummingbirds need.
Butterflies and hummingbirds need high energy-producing nectar to survive.
Nectar-rich native wildflowers provide the fuel that will keep your hummingbirds humming and butterflies fluttering.
Did you know?
Hummingbirds require an incredible amount of energy to flap their wings 50 times or more per second in order to maintain hovering flight. In fact, if a hummingbird were the size of a human, it would consume energy at a rate more than 10 times that of an Olympic marathon runner...Whereas humans evolved over time on a complex diet, hummingbirds evolved on a diet rich in sugar. - Source: University of Toronto. "Hummingbird metabolism unique in burning glucose, fructose equally.” ScienceDaily, 5 December 2013. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/12/131205165823.htm
Nectar is the staple of a butterfly's diet. Their long proboscis allows them to reach deep into flowers and retrieve the nectar found there. At first glance, the proboscis doesn't seem suited to consuming any other type of food. While it's true that sugary nectar is a primary source of energy for butterflies, they have lots of other dietary needs. Butterflies need nutrients and minerals to fly and reproduce, and many of these don't exist in the sweet liquids produced by flowers. They get the minerals they need from the soil, obtained by “puddling” in wet areas. More info: Wilson, Tracy V., How Butterflies Work https://animals.howstuffworks.com/insects/butterfly.htm#pt3.
Monarchs have two phases, a high metabolic rate during reproduction and a low metabolic rate and fat acquisition that takes place during the migration. You've got to have nectar sources. They can't reproduce without nectar, they can't go through migration without nectar, and they can't survive the winter without having a very large amount of lipid stores. So nectar is important all around. We can't just plant milkweed, we have to plant the nectar plants too. Source: Taylor, Chip (2019). The Importance of Nectar. Journey North https://journeynorth.org/tm/monarch/nectar_lipid_graph.html