Birds will be attracted to the bioscape if their basic requirements are provided: food, water, cover and nesting areas. Obviously, different species have different requirements. Some species live primarily on seeds and they will be attracted to feeders placed within the landscape. Others prefer a diet of fruits and insects and these must be provided by a number of fruit bearing plants which produce food throughout the year. Look at our plant list to see those species recommended for this purpose.
Cover is important to most bird species since they need protection from predators. Watch the more shy species such as thrashers and warblers and you will see them use a hedge like a highway, moving about while remaining under cover. Others’ need dense shrubbery or vines for nesting sites.
Some bird species build open nests in protected areas. Others must have cavity nest holes and these are particularly limited by the lack of dead trees in developed areas. Each species has preferences as to the size and depth of the cavity, size of the opening, etc. Check out our list of bird houses produced for this purpose, ranging in size from small wren houses to large owl or wood duck boxes. We also include bat houses for those fascinating creatures.
Butterflies In The Garden
There is nothing quite as beautiful as the sight of a butterfly gracefully fluttering about in the garden. It is natural for us to pause and watch, forever hopeful that it will linger long enough for us take in all the wonder of this majestic little miracle of nature. More often than not it vanishes from our sight as quickly as it appeared. Gardening to create a place where butterflies will come and stay can be a very rewarding experience. The sensitive gardener will appreciate the butterfly not only for its beauty, but for the function it serves in pollination of plants in general, helping to preserve species, generation after generation.
For many years mankind has waged war against insects using deadly toxins to compete. Unfortunately, the good ones were killed with the bad. In addition, widespread development of natural areas has removed the native plants upon which many insects depend, greatly reducing populations. Creating a garden for butterflies takes an adjustment in our mindset. When we see caterpillars feeding on our plants we have to learn to tell ourselves, ‘this is a good thing’.
There are at least 160 different kinds of butterflies that have breeding populations in Florida. Butterflies do not occur just anywhere, but each species prefers to live in specific habitats. In order for butterflies to live and breed, the habitat must contain host plants for the caterpillars (larval food plants) as well as flowers that produce nectar for the adults.
Adult females can detect the presence of larval food plants from great distances and seek them out. They lay their eggs in a scattered fashion around the plants. Eggs are very small but with the help of a magnifying glass you can identify the species by the size, shape and color of the eggs. The egg hatches into a tiny worm like larva, called a caterpillar, which immediately begins to eat huge quantities of the young tender leaves of the larval plant. For most gardeners this is where the hard part begins, but this process rarely kills the plant and it will recover as soon as the larvae mature.
For the chrysalis stage the caterpillar will leave the plant to climb to some height in shrubbery or other hiding place to spin its silken magic. It may appear lifeless but in seven to ten days (depending on the temperature) an astonishing change takes place and a colorful butterfly emerges ready to fly off in search of food and a mate.
If your garden has the nectar food sources and the plants needed for larval development, females will be attracted and the males will find them. If the garden supplies enough food, cover and water, they will remain there.
A butterfly garden can be as simple as a container garden placed in just the right spot or as elaborate as a formal garden setting. One of the most important aspects of your garden is choosing the right plants. Although, there are a few butterfly plants that will do well in the shade, most plants will require at least 4-6 hours of direct sunlight a day so you will want to begin by finding the sunniest part of your yard to install your garden.
Diversity in plant selection offers an opportunity to attract a variety of butterflies and it is important to remember that you will need both larval and nectar food that is produced all year. Since nectar plants bloom all year you can enhance the area by clumping together vibrantly colored plants that offer a range in height and hue. Many butterfly nectar plants offer a double bonus, as they will attract humming birds as well.
Some of the many nectar plants to choose from that are recommended for this area can be found on our butterfly plant list. To provide water for your habitat fill a shallow long narrow dish with soil and keep it very moist. Butterflies are not attracted to open water but will drink from wet soils.
A good rule of thumb to follow is that whenever possible plant native Florida plants for long range benefits to plant communities, water resources and animal habitats alike. Visit our list on this site to learn more about the native plants for this area.
We are more familiar with the beautiful butterflies, but the true ecology-minded gardener should get just as much pleasure watching a small membranous-winged fly or bee feed at one of his flowers as he does when he spots a butterfly. When we create a butterfly garden, we are doing much more; we are increasing populations and survival rates for many other pollinator species as well.