As you search the web, talk to people and ask the specialist, you will get all types of answers concerning insects and their role in the environment. You come across such things as beneficial insects and then all the others. Don't let these terms scare you. They are usually related to certain groups and how they make a living. For example, the farmer needs bees to pollinate his crop making them a beneficial insect. The person who is allergic to bees sees them as a problem.
Now we have the butterfly, an odd insect that seems too fragile for the environment, but continues to float around some of the plants in our gardens and flower beds. As we watch them, they prefer certain flowers over others and sometimes appear to be just sitting on the wet ground. People create Butterfly gardens to attract them; others have a large enclosure where you can visit and see them up close.
When I was a boy, along time ago, in the 1950's, I was fascinated by butterflies and insects that visited Granny's flower garden This was an enclosure in the front yard with a straight path through it to her front porch. She had it fenced to keep out the chickens and probably us kids. It was amazing to sit on the porch (No AC or TV) and watch the insects at play. Always, the butterflies were the moving pictures that held my attention. They seemed to move slow enough that I could catch them. Notice the word seemed,I failed a lot. Since childhood I have learned more about the butterflies and their place in the environment. For example, we sell citrus trees at the nursery and customers call about the worm (which looks like bird droppings) that is eating the leaves on their citrus trees. Guess what? Citrus trees are the host plant for citrus swallowtail butterflies.
Many plants provide a place for the eggs of butterflies to grow up while others furnish the correct type of flower for their dinner plate.
You can add certain flowers and other plants to your orchard, garden and flower bed to attract these beautiful moving pictures to your yard. You will have to go outside to see them or place them in a bed near a window. May I suggest you take a moment and a child and go outside and see a moving picture and a real smile.
Don't forget the wet pot or mud-puddle in your garden. They need a place to drink.
Plants that we sell that butterflies enjoy are:
Citrus trees (satsuma, lemon, kumquat, grapefruit, oranges)
Cone Flowers provide a great perch for the butterflies while they are having lunch.
Pentas provide many Butterflies with lunch and comes in red, white and pink.
Lantana is great for Butterflies and will beautify your yard in such colors as yellow, red, lavender and others.
Milkweed is the host plant for the Monarch Butterfly. If you see worms on it, let them be. They will grow up and fly away.
Thorn-less Blackberries are an excellent choice for early butterflies because they are a spring bloomer and also provide the gardener with sweet fruit. The fruit may be eaten fresh, made into jellies and jams, juice or pies.