Butterflies drink the nectar from certain flowers, so some plants provide butterflies with food. The advantage for the flowering plant is that pollen will collect on the butterfly while it is feeding, then rub off on another flower when the butterfly moves to a different flower to feed, thus helping the plants pollinate.
Butterflies also rely on plants for roosting and laying their eggs. Both the plant and the butterfly benefit from the interactions of each other. Without the other, each creature’s reproductive systems would be a lot less productive.
As both sfincher and prenda11 indicated, butterflies feed off the nectar of a wide variety of flowering plants, pollinating the plant. During their caterpillar stage, however, the insects will only feed off of specific plants that differ from species to species. If you want to attract a certain kind of caterpillar, you should cater to their needs in the larval stages–when they are caterpillars. For instance, monarch butterflies require milkweed in their larval stage.
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