Musta been about twenty years ago I realized that I had not seen honey bees in the perennial section for a VERY LONG TIME. I knew that it was because I did due diligence to our customers by spraying orthene systemic insecticide on everything preventatively so our customers got "CLEAN" plants.
It occurred to me that I wanted to see honey bees more than I cared about having 100% insect-free plants, so I stopped spraying, and haven't since. Now I look back at those days and realize how stupid and thoughtless I was spraying like that.
The very first year of insecticide-free lifestyle for us resulted in DOZENS of honey bees happily pollinating willy-nilly. There were butterflies all over the place, and life abounded in our perennial section. The BIGGEST reward, however, was the monarch butterfly larvae. I had never seen them ever before in my life.
The ones I found on the Asclepias tuberosa flowers were huge, almost the size of my pinky. Multi-colored, zebra-striped, and very strong-willed as a caterpillar.
This is how it all starts folks! Lucky butterflies! First, though, you gotta attract them to your property. This is done with two very different types of plants:
1. The flowering plants that the adult butterfly sucks on to get loads of energy.
2. The milkweed family of plants in nature that are like neon signs flashing the message:
"LAY YOUR BUTTERFLY EGGS ON ME, ON ME, ON ME!!!"
The eggs are laid on the weedy milkyweedy plants- I know of five plants they lay their eggs upon. Eggs hatch and the almost invisible babies start to feed immediately, molting five times before pupating. Mommy only apparently lays only one egg per plant so there's enough food for it's voracious appetite.
They are very interesting insects with extremely complex life cycles that we humans know actually very little about.