Do Butterflies Prefer Native Plants?

According to an online article, Dr. Jeffrey Glassberg made the statement,”Butterflies are very attracted to many non-native species — such as butterfly bush, zinnias and lantanas — but they prefer native plants.”

It’s amazing to me when I see experts in the field make such silly statements. Butterflies prefer good nectar sources and many non-natives are much better sources. I’ve got Joe Pye Weed in my yard and I rarely see any butterflies on it. The reason is, I have Butterflybush, Lantana and many other non-natives which are flowering and are much more attractive to butterflies. In the wild, you’ll see butterflies on Joe Pye Weed, but that’s only because they don’t have any other options.

Given a choice, Eastern Tiger Swallowtails will always choose the non-native Butterfly Bush over the native Joe Pye Weed.

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1 Comment

Filed under Butterfly Gardening

One response to “Do Butterflies Prefer Native Plants?

  1. Yes, indeed, it is a “silly statement” to say that butterflies prefer native plants. That attributes motivation to an insect which is an extreme case of anthropomorphism.

    Professor Art Shapiro (UC Davis) has been studying butterflies in California for over 35 years. He has an on-line database about California’s butterflies that is a work of art (no pun intended). His resaerch reports that about 40% of all of California’s native butterflies are now dependent upon non-native plants and more use both natives and non-natives. (SD Graves and AM Shapiro, “Exotics as host plants of the California butterfly fauna,” Biological Conservation, 110 (2003) 413-433)

    Meanwhile, native plant advocates continue to eradicate many of the plants that are hosts to native insects, including butterflies. The honeybee (non-native, but responsible for pollinating about one-third of the nation’s agriculatural crops) is dependent upon winter sources of nectar that are only available from non-native plants and trees.

    The native plant movement is a misguided bunch of folks who are destroying many of the plants and animals that are an important part of nature, as we know it. Please visit the Million Trees website for information about the destructive aspects of nativism.

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