Do Butterflies Like Lavender?

do-butterflies-like-lavender

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There can be no denying that a cloud of butterflies drifting through the garden is one of the most beautiful sights a person can behold. Their delicate, colorful wings make them a delight to see, and they play a vital role in pollinating many species of flowers. Many gardeners wonder about just what flowers and herbs they can plant to attract butterflies to their garden. For instance, do butterflies like lavender?

Butterflies love lavender; the fragrant, purple flowers are full of sugary nectar and are just the right color and shape to bring butterflies flocking. In addition, lavender plants are easy to grow, naturally deter many garden pests, and can be a very useful kitchen herb. A versatile and useful plant to add to your garden!

Why do butterflies like lavender?

Like hummingbirds, butterflies are attracted by particular colors. Flowers in shades of red, pink, orange, purple, white, and yellow are shown to be most attractive to butterflies, while blue and green flowers seem to turn them off. Individual butterflies may even learn what color flowers are most likely to produce the kind of nectar they prefer. 

Unlike hummingbirds, however, butterflies are attracted by a flower’s scent as well. Butterflies have fewer olfactory receptors than bees, so scents are less important to them than they are to honeybees, but they will still be more drawn to fragrant flowers than to scentless species. 

And lavender, of course, is known not just for its beautiful purple flowers, but for its bright, medicinal scent. This scent comes from the oil produced naturally in lavender blossoms, and that oil is harvested in many areas for use as a perfume, a massage oil, or aromatherapy. 

It’s also a natural insect repellent. Sachets of dried lavender flowers are still used as a natural deterrent to common indoor pests such as fleas, flies, and clothes moths. You’ll also see fewer mosquitoes in your yard if you have lots of lavender growing there! 

But while these pests might avoid it, butterflies and honeybees both love the scent. You might even find that if you wear lavender-scented hand cream or perfume it will be easier to tempt butterflies to sit on your hand.

What butterflies are primarily attracted to, aside from color and scent, is flower shape. Butterflies either prefer large, open petals or multiple, small, tube-shaped flowers clustered together on one stem. They prefer short, narrow nectar tubes to allow quick ease of access to the sweet bounty inside.

They are also more likely to flock to gardens that have large clusters of similar flowers. Large blotches of color act as giant billboards advertising “FOOD HERE” to wandering butterflies.

What butterflies are attracted to lavender?

All kinds! Lavender is particularly known as a favorite of butterflies in general, so you’re likely to see many different species visiting your lavender plants. But there are three, in particular, you might see haunting your flowers.

Cabbage whites are small, white butterflies with two black spots on their wings. They’ve become common throughout most of the United States and Canada since being accidentally introduced in the 19th century. They’re particularly known for being attracted to purple flowers like lavender.

Horace’s duskywing is a somewhat plain-looking butterfly with mousy, brown and gray wings. You might not think it’s the most attractive garden visitor, but a subtle, coppery shimmer to its wings gives it a gentle beauty that you’ll come to love. 

Perhaps the showiest butterflies you might see visiting your lavender flowers are swallowtails. The eastern and western swallowtails are large, striking butterflies with gorgeous yellow and black wings. Once you see one of these beauties gracing your garden, you won’t soon forget it.

And of course, monarch butterflies have been known to love purple flowers, including butterfly bush (or buddleia), lilac, and lavender. This beautiful species has suffered a major decline in the past few years. Why not give it a hand by providing a new food source for these travelers?

What else can I do to bring butterflies to my garden?

One of the most important things you can do to bring butterflies flocking to your yard is to avoid the use of pesticides. They are fragile creatures, and while butterflies can’t feel pain as we understand it, they cannot tolerate any kind of chemical pesticides. These poisons will shorten the lifespan of butterflies and bees, and they will quickly learn to avoid your garden.  

If you want butterflies to visit you, why not grow yourself a culinary garden? Many common kitchen herbs like thyme, oregano, dill, chives, yarrow, verbena, dill, and mint, produce flowers that provide copious amounts of delicious nectar for butterflies. And in turn, these plants make fantastic teas, herbal medicines, oils, and fresh cooking ingredients. Why not feed yourself as well as the butterflies!

While you’re at it, how about adding a treat for the furry members of your family? Catnip, also called catmint, isn’t just loved by cats. The fragrant, purple flowers are chock full of the nectar that butterflies need. Your cats and the local butterflies will all thank you!

Why attract butterflies to my garden?

Butterflies aren’t just beautiful to look at, they also have a vital part to play in the ecosystem. Many different animals feed on adult butterflies, including lizards, spiders, fish, snakes, and ants. In addition, caterpillars provide a soft, high-protein food source for songbirds to feed their nestlings. 

But it’s not just animals that need butterflies; plants produce nectar specifically to attract creatures like butterflies, and the butterflies repay them by pollinating their flowers. Without butterflies, a lot of different species would be in very serious trouble.

It’s easy to see that butterflies aren’t just beautiful, but extremely important. Plant some lavender, along with a few other flowers like hydrangeas, and enjoy the beautiful sights and sounds of your butterfly garden.

About author
Rachel Verkade studied wildlife biology at McGill University, and now spends most of her time walking in the woods and watching the birds that come to her many backyard feeders. She also dabbles in wildlife photography (whenever things will hold still). She writes part time for Wild Yards about any and all types of wildlife that visit our back yards.

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