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Breeding butterflies as alternative pollinators  RSS feed

 
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Location: Portlandia, Oregon
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So it just hit me, and I haven't researched it much, but I do know that butterflies can pollinate flowers. So it hit me, how cool would it be if someone could breed butterflies as a garden pollinator. There are several reasons I think these could be good. First diversity. 2nd we could get a lot more people to go poison free by touting butterflies as a bonus than bees. 3 butterfly's could be kept in places bees can not be kept. Fourth, I think it would add a whole new level of magical feeling to a permaculture system.

So what I'm wondering is what you guys think of this. Do you think this could work? Do you know anyone who already does this?
 
master pollinator
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I love the idea! We have many butterflies here but I'm planting a lot of native flowers which they prefer in order to have even more. We also have several kinds of native bees, wasps and other little pollinators who I suspect are better at pollinating than butterflies are, but I can't see any harm in planting habitat for all these guys. You never know who might show up!

 
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We too have lots of butterflies, and like Tyler I plant and allow to grow lots of native flowers and domestic too. I love watching the buzz in my gardens on a sunny day from all kinds of pollenators. Did you mean actually controled breeding and not just providing habitat?
 
pollinator
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Breed butterflies makes caterpillars and one angry gardener!
 
Tyler Ludens
master pollinator
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I think they're cute. Most kinds don't eat my vegs.

My husband has been photographing butterflies lately: http://porchlizard.tumblr.com/
 
steward
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One of the many reasons to grow nettles here is that it's the sole food source of the endemic red admiral caterpillars, and they're becoming quite rare as marginal areas are 'tidied up'.
I see butterflies as a fun addition to the menagerie, but don't expect much from them pollination-wise:D
I try to attract bumblebees and the fly/wasp gang as my main pollinators; I usually only see a couple of honeybees a season.
 
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have you ever watched your flowerbeds and gardens? there are dozens and dozens of insects crawling and flying around that are also pollinators. Seems like many people believe only european honeybees pollinate. Where I live there are like 200 species of native bees. Plus butterflies, plus at least a dozen other species of insect that pollinate. Who needs a honeybee?
 
Shawn Harper
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Judith Browning wrote:We too have lots of butterflies, and like Tyler I plant and allow to grow lots of native flowers and domestic too. I love watching the buzz in my gardens on a sunny day from all kinds of pollenators. Did you mean actually controled breeding and not just providing habitat?



I was thinking of controlled breeding yes, as wild populations are outside my control to protect. As a kid I used to see butterfly's often, now even though I encourage them, they are a rare beauty. From what I've read butterflies are better for species diversity, but not as effective pollinators. Still if anyone knows of good links for this ideas would love them. Otherwise it's gonna be a ton of book work for me.
 
garden master
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Shawn, great topic!  Since this was from several years ago, what have you done in regards to this topic?
 
Anne Miller
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In case anyone here is interested in breeding butterflies, here is some information on breeding Monarch Butterflies:

https://texasbutterflyranch.com/2013/04/05/how-to-raise-monarch-butterflies-at-home/

This would make a great project for next spring.
 
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I don't think butterflies make great pollinators, if you watch the way they land on flowers and delicately extend their long tongues into the nectaries.  You're better off encouraging bees which bumble in there and are much clumsier.  That's not to say butterflies aren't lovely and worth enouraging in their own right!
 
master pollinator
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I think they're cute. Most kinds don't eat my vegs.  



I think they're cute. None eat my CHICKENS. Bad hawk bad bad hawk:(

Alternative pollinators, sure. Better than bees? I'd bet on the bees doing a better job overall.

 
gardener
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I don’t typically see more than a handful of the large attractive butterflies in my garden each year, perhaps because I don’t plant a lot that’s just for them.

Then this summer I saw a marginal/aquatic pond plant with “meh” flowers that was utterly SWARMING with huge beautiful butterflies. It turned out to be buttonbush. I now have several specimens for the margin of my water garden.

I did get finally convince a wild passiflora incarnata to grow in a decorative pot for me this year, whereupon a passing fritillary butterfly laid eggs and the caterpillars ate it right down to the dirt.
 
Anne Miller
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It may be that all pollinators are in a decline not just butterflies.  I try to do what I can for all of them.

Here is an article regarding the decline of butterflies:

https://www.dw.com/en/butterfly-declines-in-the-north-america-uk/a-37688619

Butterfly declines in the North America, UK

Fewer butterflies are flitting from flower to flower in the UK and North America, say two new studies. Pesticides, disappearing green areas and air pollution are some of the culprits. ...

Urban populations of 28 butterfly species have fallen 69 percent across the UK since 1995, while in America monarch butterflies are down 80 percent since the mid-1990s and 27 percent since this time last year.

The decline is worrying, say scientists, because butterflies are recognized as environmental indicators due to their rapid responses to small changes in climate and habitat.




Monarch Butterfly




Peacock Butterfly




Flower-rich semi-natural grasslands are home to many butterflies




 
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