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 very often play the role of host during the caterpillar stage. Lepidoptera may deposit their eggs on one plant species, to the exclusion of others, as is the case with Monarch butterflies and milkweed plants. Others may be less exclusive when it comes to which plants will host their eggs and caterpillars, but they do 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.
A Few Butterflies & their Host Plants
How to Find More Host Plants
On our website you can use the filtering options to find a more complete list of host plants. Go to Native Plants & Seeds and look for the filter option called “Benefits.” Click on Benefits, then select Host Plants. Another resource is our popular chart: Important Native Plants for Pollinators. This chart includes a column that indicates which plants are host plants.