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Old 02-26-2009, 11:10 PM   #4
Cirsium
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Join Date: Nov 2008
Location: Midwest
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Would the plants that are good for the caterpillar stage be the same as the plants for the butterfly stage? Or, does each stage need a different plant?
Good questions - but I won't be able to be nearly as succinct with the answers.

Host plants are the plants that the caterpillars need to survive. The foliage is what the caterpillar uses for food. Each species of butterfly has a select group of plants that will meet the biological needs of it's caterpillars. Monarch butterfly caterpillars, for example, need milkweeds. Karner Blue butterfly caterpillars need wild lupines. The Milbert's Tortoiseshell butterfly caterpillars need nettles. So when you pick host plants you have to match the host plant up with the species of butterfly that you are interested in.

Nectar is pretty much the same no matter which plant the butterfly gets it from. Sometimes they show a preference for some particular plant, but that's all it is - a preference. It's not a biological need that they get their nectar from any particular plant. When picking nectar plants you don't have to worry about which species of butterfly will use them.

Here's where it can become confusing. Many host plants are also good nectar plants. These host plants have flowers that produce nectar that the butterflies like. They will only be host plants for certain butterflies; but they will be good nectar plants for all nectar feeding butterflies.

Pupa = Chrysalis.

Life plant = Host plant. Life plant is just an expression that I've used to emphasize how important these plants are to butterflies. Butterflies cannot produce the next generation without them. Host plant just doesn't seem like a strong enough term.

If you have more questions, ask away.
If you'll tell me the state that you're in, I can try to gather some good butterfly gardening info specific to your state.
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