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North American butterfly species belong to six major families:
Skippers, including skippers, longtails and scallopwings. These small butterflies are often found in the dry habitats of Texas or Arizona.
Gossamer Wings, including coppers, hairstreaks and blues that prefer warm or tropical habitats.
Brush Footed, including monarchs, bluewings, admirals; found in many habitats, but most often in the tropics.
Swallowtails and parnassians are known to mimic other species to fool predators. Most abundant in warm or tropic areas.
Whites and Sulphurs--including whites, yellows and dogfaces--found in both temperate and tropical habitats throughout North America.
Metalmarks, small butterflies known for perching upside down, like many butterfly species prefer tropical habitats.
Only a few butterfly species have specialized to live in one area or rely on one food source. Most butterflies can thrive in a variety of habitats, ranging from fields and meadows to deep woods. According to the USDA, a butterfly habitat features an abundance of plant life and protection from predators. Plants provide food for the mature butterflies and protective cover for caterpillars. Rocks, log piles and open buildings can also provide protection. Ponds, streams and rain droplets on leaves make up the water supply.
An individual butterfly can inhabit an area of several square miles. Because butterfly species are plentiful and the insects can live in a wide variety of environments, many species overlap and compete for the same resources.
Preparing a Habitat
According to the USDA, attracting butterflies to your garden or backyard generally takes no more than planting a wildflower garden or allowing wild grasses to grow around your house. A few small bowls or small pond can provide all the water the insects will need. Planting wildflowers that bloom at various times of the year can help assure a steady food supply for the species.
"Butterfly boxes" meant to attract and keep butterflies supplied do not work, according to the North American Butterfly Association.
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