Being an adult butterfly in pursuit of a mating partner can be exhausting. Nectar rich flowers like those of the native Butterfly Bush (Pavetta australiensis) provide butterflies with the sugars they need to sustain their 'lifestyle'. While adult butterflies are opportunistic when it comes to food supplies and don't mind nectar from exotic garden plants, for caterpillars it's an entirely different story.
Larvae have evolved together with native plants and, apart from the odd exception, require their host plant(s) for survival. Some can choose from quite a few, others are extremely limited in what they can feed on. It's worth every effort to add native plants to the mix in your garden. It's usually community nurseries that will help you to find the right plants suitable for butterflies and your garden. Ask the commercial nurseries to stock plants which not only provide nectar but guarantee the survival of butterflies by also carrying larval host plants.
Healthy butterfly populations can only exist if food supply is sufficient, and as long as habitat fragmentation doesn't hinder their movements and genetic mixing.
If you would like to learn more about larval host plants at all growth levels, we recommend existing literature including the following publications:
- John T. Moss, Butterfly Host Plants of South-east Queensland and Northern New South Wales, first published in 2002 by Butterflies and Other Invertebrates Club Inc, Brisbane. This publication provides extensive list of butterfly friendly groundcovers, shrubs and trees.
- Garry Sankowsky, A Field Guide to Butterflies of Australia. Their Life Histories and Larval Host Plants, 2020 Reed New Holland Publishers, Sydney. This colour illustrated book provides next to descriptions images of life cycle stages and native host plants.
Your local catchment group and local community nurseries will also help you to find the right vegetation. Don't be shy to contact them. Gardening for butterflies is very rewarding.
Image SA - Sylvia Alexander