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Article: Food for Caterpillars

Created on: Monday, June 09, 2003

The plants on which a butterfly lays its eggs are called host plants. When the eggs hatch, the host plant provides the caterpillars with the food and shelter they need to survive. Caterpillars eat leaves, flowers and sometimes the seeds of host plants. Some caterpillars feed on only one species of host, while others will feed on many species within the same plant family.

Butterflies lay hundreds of eggs but only 2 or 3 caterpillars out of 100 live to become butterflies, so you can see why habitat is so important to their survival.

Before planting host plants, we must find out what types of butterflies are common to our area and plant host plants that will attract those specific butterflies. Many larval host plants are wildflowers or weedy or grassy plants that we might not want to introduce to our flower gardens. These host plants can be grown in a separate area, a bit more out of view and where their potentially invasive habits can be tolerated.

Food plants for caterpillars include, but are not limited to, milkweed, parsley, nettles, plantain, thistle and many grasses and sedges.

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