Creating a Butterfly Garden to Protect Butterflies from Extreme Weather Events in Southwest Florida

The biggest threats to butterflies are habitat change and loss due to residential, commercial and agricultural development, as well as climate change, widespread use of pesticides and invasive species. All of these can have direct and indirect impacts on native host plants, which can be devastating for butterfly species. Monarchs are particularly vulnerable, with their population having declined by approximately 80 percent since the mid-1990s in the region east of the Rocky Mountains, and by 99.9 percent in the West since the 1980s. If you are looking to grow plants indoors, it is best to start 4 to 8 weeks before moving them outside, and wait until after the last frost before transitioning them to the outdoors.

This is especially important for potted milkweed, as it needs to survive until the monarch's mating season. You can also plant milkweed directly outdoors. It is still a mystery how monarchs can find the same hibernation sites in Mexico every year. Scientists believe they use an internal magnetic compass that helps them stay on course with the sun, even on cloudy days. In late summer and fall, monarchs begin their flights south across most of North America. Creating a butterfly garden is a great way to provide a safe haven for butterflies and other wildlife.

It should provide food for both adult butterflies and their caterpillars, as well as mimic the surrounding habitat as closely as possible. This is especially important for non-migratory butterflies like those found in South Florida, which tend to stay in a very small area and have more specific habitat requirements than migratory ones. Butterflies also need protection from extreme weather events such as severe droughts and storms, and extreme heat and cold temperatures. To help protect them, it is important to be aware of any plant species that have become invasive and have been added to the FLEPPC list. Butterfly farming should also be avoided, as it can hamper the survival of the species. The most obvious benefit of butterfly gardening is that it attracts wildlife, drawing butterflies and more to your garden for purposes of enjoyment, observation, study, and photography.

It is also important to monitor milkweed plants so you can observe wild monarch caterpillars grow from eggs to butterflies. When creating a butterfly garden in Southwest Florida, there are several steps you can take to ensure that your garden provides a safe haven for these delicate creatures. First, choose native plants that are adapted to local conditions and provide food sources for both adult butterflies and their caterpillars. Second, avoid using pesticides or other chemicals that could harm butterflies or their food sources. Third, provide shelter from extreme weather events such as droughts or storms by planting trees or shrubs that will provide shade or windbreaks.

Finally, monitor milkweed plants so you can observe wild monarch caterpillars grow from eggs to butterflies.

Alexander Renaud
Alexander Renaud

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