Butterflies are unique insects with many interesting traits. Did you know they taste with their feet? They have no mouth and instead have a proboscis that is used like a straw to sip nectar.

When a butterfly lands on a flower, its feet act like taste organs that tell the butterfly if the bloom contains nectar. If its feet don’t sense any nectar, the butterfly flies away in search of another bloom to land on.

The feet’s taste receptors also tell the butterfly if a plant’s leaves are food for its larvae. If so, the female butterfly lays eggs on the leaves.

Plant flowering annuals and perennials to feed larvae and adult pollinators. Butterfly larvae have specific plants they eat.

  • Black Swallowtail – parsley, dill, fennel
  • Giant Swallowtail – prickly ash, citrus
  • Sulphur – clover, peas, vetch, alfalfa, asters
  • Variegated Fritillary – passionflower, purslane
  • Viceroy – willows, cottonwood, aspen
  • Western Tiger Swallowtail – willow, plum, sycamore
  • Painted Lady (Cosmopolite) – thistle, mallow, yarrow
  • Mourning Cloak – willow, cottonwood
  • Cloudless Sulfur – cassia

Annuals for adult butterflies include zinnia, verbena, lobelia, sweet alyssum, Ca poppy, sweet pea, nasturtium calendula, coreopsis, gaillardia, sunflower, African daisy, cosmos, hollyhock, and clarkia.

Perennials for adult butterflies include chuparosa, penstemon, ruellia, Mexican honeysuckle, brittlebush, desert marigold, globe mallow, Shasta daisy, lantana, and blue mist,

Vines for adult butterflies include mile-a-minute, passionflower, cat’s claw, trumpet vine, queen’s wreath, yellow butterfly vine, and yuca vine.

The USDA states that 75% of plant species require pollinators to survive. One out of every three bites of food we eat is produced thanks to a pollinator. Insects, including butterflies and moths, play an important role in feeding birds in our eco-system.

When we plant flowering plants or larval plants, we are helping expand the food supply for butterfly pollinators.

By Karen Bowen
Karen is a member of Yuma Orchid and African Violet Society, a master gardener, and the Pacific Region Butterfly Chairman.

Photo #1 Wikipedia

The Two-tailed Swallowtail is Arizona’s state insect.

Photo #2 Wikimedia

A Painted Lady butterfly uses its proboscis to sip nectar from lantana blooms.

Photo #3 Wikimedia

Mourning Cloak larvae feed on willow and cottonwood leaves.