Host Plants for Butterflies & Moths

Native plants are tied to the lifecycles of numerous butterflies and moths (lepidoptera). Important not only for their nectar, native plants are commonly selected as hosts plants for the caterpillar stage. Some butterflies and moths deposit their eggs on one kind of plant to the exclusion of others, as is the case with Monarch butterflies and milkweeds. Not all are butterflies are exclusive when it comes to which plants will host to their eggs and caterpillars, but they often have preferences.

Caterpillar Friendly Gardening

Last year's leaves, grasses and "yard waste" play an important role in the bio-community of the garden and landscape. Many butterflies and moths over-winter in fallen leaves and spent plant material from the previous season. A light-handed approach to “cleaning up” the garden allows more butterflies and moths to thrive. Avoid raking the ground clean around shrubs and in garden beds, as it can destroy the hibernation environment for the very life that you are trying to support. An article on our blog covers this topic in more detail: Meaningful Maintenance: Fall Clean-up with Positive Impact.

Habitat and Range

The likelihood of seeing particular species of butterflies or moths can be limited by to specific habitat requirements or range. On the other hand, there are many butterflies and moths that range far and wide, and are easily supported, even in urban areas.

Some Butterflies & Host Plants


monarch

Monarch 
Host Plants: Any plant of the Asclepias genus, including Red Milkweed, Common Milkweed, Showy Milkweed, Sullivant's Milkweed, Butterflyweed


painted lady

American Lady, Painted Lady 
Host Plants: Pussytoes, Ironweed, Pearly Everlasting, Rose Mallow, Thistles, Burdock,


fritillary

Fritillaries 
Host Plants: Various violets, Bird's Foot Violet 


swallowtail

Tiger Swallowtails
Host Plants: Trees such as Ash, Birch, Chokecherry, Basswood, Poplar, Willow 


black swallowtail

Black Swallowtail
Host Plants: Members of the parsley family (Apiaceae) including Golden Alexanders


pearl crescent

Pearl Crescent, Tawny Crescent 
Host Plants: Smooth Aster, Frost Aster and other asters.


karner blue

Karner Blue, Melissa Blue 
Host Plants: Lupine 


eastern tailed blue

Eastern Tailed Blue, Hoary Edge
Host Plants: Canada Tick Trefoil, Roundheaded Bushclover



checkerspot

Baltimore Checkerspot 
Host Plants: White Turtlehead


duskywing butterfly

Columbine Duskywing 
Host Plants: Columbine


buckeye

Common Buckeye 
Host Plants: Wild Petunia, Verbena stricta


frosted elfin

Frosted Elfin 
Host Plants: Lupine, Blue False Indigo


summer azure

Mottled Duskywing, Spring Azure, Summer Azure 
Host Plants: New Jersey Tea

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