Ania Majewska, Sonia Altizer, Andy Davis
Odum School of Ecology
University of Georgia


Unprecedented decline of pollinators is a pressing conservation problem arising from climate change, disease and habitat loss. Pollinator--‐friendly gardens could afford lost natural habitat and serve as corridors between fragmented habitats. Further work is needed to quantify the effects in a variety of pollinators, including butterflies, which have not been examined. To elucidate the role of gardens on abundance and recruitment, we use a field-based experimental approach, the first to our knowledge, to assess whether gardens are beneficial to butterfly communities.

The Gardens

  • 12 gardens, 25 by 50 feet, fenced, equally watered
  • 12 types of perennials /garden
  • 128 plants arranged in 8x16 matrix with random positions
  • Gardens consist of all native or all exotic plants and receive high or low maintenance (weeding)

Map of butterfly plots

Planting the butterfly gardens






Can the intensity of garden maintenance and native vs exotic plants affect butterflies?


  • Higher weeds, as seen on the right, might provide effective hiding sites from predators
  • Exotic plants may be attractive but serve as poor quality food for adults and caterpillars


Rows of new plantings Plantings filling out in the butterfly beds


How do we know gardens help butterflies?


  • By monitoring host plants for eggs and caterpillars, we can assess reproduction.
  • We collect caterpillars to rear them in lab and check them for parasites and disease
  • We observe gardens for presence and number of predators
  • Using capture--‐mark--‐recapture, we determine abundance and survivorship

Monarch butterfly, marked for future identification Containers of samples


What are the threats to butterfly survival?


  • Natural enemies include birds and invertebrate predators: praying mantids, wasps, and assassin bugs
  • Butterflies are also victim to parasites: protozoans such as Ophryocystis elektroscirrha and parasitoids such as tachinid fly


2013 Butterfly Gardens Basemaps


Butterflies congregate on a bush