What is a butterfly puddler?

Creating habitat and attracting pollinators to your garden can be a very rewarding endeavor, both for you and the wildlife you provide for. Butterflies and moths require nectar producing plants as a food source as well as native host plants to lay their eggs on. Did you know they also need mud puddles in order to be successful and abundant reproducers? Why? Keep reading and we’ll tell you.

If you’ve ever seen a group of butterflies gathered around a puddle you may have wondered what was so attractive in the mud. This is called ‘puddling’ and can also occur around dung, campfire ashes, carrion, and sometimes tree sap.

Photo © Lisa Brown

The butterflies are gathering sodium (Na) (salt) and other minerals from the saturated soil using their proboscis. Their proboscis has highly sensitive receptors to detect which puddles have greater concentrations of the salt they needopen_in_new.

Photo © chinmayisk

Some butterflies, like these pictured above, gather around puddles in a kaleidoscope of mixed colors and speciesopen_in_new. Others, like the Spicebush swallowtail below, tend to gather only with the same species. Either way, research has shown that butterflies are more likely to gather where others already are, possibly as a foraging efficiency or a defense against predation. A decoy, even a wing from an expired butterfly, at a homemade mud puddle is likely to help get the party started.

Photo © John Flannery

Curiously, male butterflies dominate these gatherings around the watering hole; and, there have only been a few documented cases of females engaging in this puddling behavioropen_in_new. Research suggests that the minerals gained during puddling by the male butterfly are transferred to the female via spermatophore during copulation in what is known as a “nuptial gift”. This is actually common among many mating insects. Nutrient foraging effort differs among species, sex, and age classes; but, it is most often performed by younger males (just before breeding), leading to the spermatophore theoryopen_in_new. Females observed puddling were older and more worn out, possibly making up for long term deficiencies.

Photo © Harshjeet Singh Bal

Moisture from mud puddles can contain the salt and minerals needed to sustain the female during egg production and ovipositing, which uses-up most of the the sodium they emerged with from the cocoon (up to 75% of their stores)open_in_new. Over the course of their adult life, however, female butterflies of researched species showed no net loss in their sodium content, even after repeated reproduction. This may indicate that they were being replenished by the males who do show a net loss of sodium over their lifetime despite emerging with higher sodium levels and engaging in puddling behavior.

Photo © Michelle Maani

Butterflies and moths are not the only wildlife that will appreciate easy access to a good mud source. Many birds, like American Robins and these Cliff Swallows, will use mud to build nests during their breeding season. Several types of bees will build hives or fill breeding tubes with mud and, of course, amphibians, like toads and salamanders, are known to play in the mud too.

Photo © John McLinden

Mud is needed by wildlife several times throughout the year when normal weather conditions would naturally create it. Urbanization and other forms of habitat loss, however, may make it difficult for wildlife to find a good source, leading to puddling or collecting mud in dangerous places like driveways or roadsides, near pesticide runoff, or unprotected from predators. Providing mud as habitat can attract these beautiful creatures to a site and reduce the risk they may face looking for mud in all the wrong places.

Photo © Moosicorn Ranch

To provide mud for wildlife at your site you could simply make some, mixing soil and water and leave it out in a shallow tray or bowl. You can create a sodium solution with sea salt and water to add to the mud for a more compelling treat. For a larger installation, raised wooden boxes full of dirt or sand can be rewetted throughout the seasons as necessary, saturating the material but not leaving standing water. Be sure to use soil with a high mineral content and little organic material. Also, leaving some bare earth spots in your landscaping can create mud as weather or watering allows and will also provide this type of habitat throughout the year.

Contents

Add it to your habitat map.

Photo © Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Add a mud puddle habitat feature to your map and let us know you are providing unique and valuable resources for the wildlife in your neck of the woods. Start with the Ground Habitat tool and outline the area you want to dedicate to dirt. Double click on the habitat and give it a name like “Mudlick Saloon”. Then, fill in the Characteristics for the habitat; is it soil, sand, or gravel? In the comments section, indicate that this mud is for butterflies, bees, and birds. Be sure to provide any other information you want to contribute to let others know about your mud making!

Hint: Mud puddles are usually fairly small spaces so zoom into your map to be as accurate with the size as you can be.

Mud-puddling … the butterfly’s dirty little secret

Although they’re often revered for their beautiful appearance, butterflies might not be as enchanting as you think. They regularly congregate around mud, dung and even decaying corpses.

Ah yes, the butterfly. A beloved cultural icon, celebrated in ancient artworks and revered as a symbol of everything from love to rebirth. But these delicate insects might not be quite as enchanting as you think. Naturalist and butterfly expert Andre Coetze gives us the lowdown on the butterfly’s dirty little secret…

Ever had the desire to grab your camera and get up close to a pile of fresh dung? How about lying flat on a sand bank where animals urinate? While most photographers would rather snap wildlife from the comfort of their cars, for anyone with an interest in butterflies, smelly mud and stinky excretions often lead to the best shots…

Butterflies and moths regularly congregate around mud, dung and even blood, tears or decaying flesh! Little is known about this behaviour, but there are a couple of interesting observations that may help explain the icky phenomenon.

For starters, the majority of specimens found near mud are males and quite often, while the butterfly blokes are drinking from the mud, fluids are pumped out of their abdomens. The male Gluphisia septentrionis moth even goes so far as to shoot the fluids in forced anal jets … charming. Butterflies also seem to be pretty selective about the spots where they settle down for a drink. So why don’t females get in on the action? And what’s with the abdomen secretions? These factors combined seem to indicate that the butterflies are probably not there simply to absorb water, but rather to look for something else.

It is believed that butterflies congregate on mud and the other such substances primarily for salts.

In fact, it is believed that butterflies congregate on mud and other such substances primarily for salts. The salts and amino acids absorbed during mud-puddling play various roles in butterfly ecology, ethology and physiology. Males seem to benefit more from the sodium uptake as it aids in reproductive success, with the precious nutrients often transferred to the female during mating. This extra nutrition helps ensure that the eggs survive.

A slightly strange experiment can be performed to test the ‘salt theory’ (it’s best performed when no one else is around). Firstly, find a sandy bank or a muddy patch situated in direct sunlight where there are plenty of butterflies. Next, pour a salt mixture over a wet, but butterfly-free, patch (in the less civilised version of this experiment you can replace salt with urine – butterflies are attracted to the sodium and ammonium ions). You can return to the spot later, when it is still warm outside, but before the moisture in the area has evaporated, and, if all goes well, you can photograph or observe the butterflies on your newly created “mud-puddling” spot.

Although this experiment can be very effective, it’s sometimes necessary to place a dummy butterfly on the patch as well to coax others in the area to join in. This dummy can be anything from a roadkill butterfly found stuck to the grill of your car, to a fake paper specimen. Keep in mind that all butterflies do not go to mud, so your best bet is something that is either white, resembling a butterfly from the family Pieridae, or black like the underside of a swallowtail butterfly from the Papilionidae family.

Not all butterflies species gather at mud puddles and it is a behaviour that is still not fully understood.

And just in case the photos aren’t evidence enough, our film crews have captured footage of mud-puddling butterflies in Thailand:

Make a Butterfly Feeder

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Butterflies are some of the most beautiful creatures you will see in the summertime.

You might watch them flutter through your yard now and then in search of sweet nectar.

But to attract a greater variety of butterflies, use two different methods to make a butterfly feeder. Keep a field guide handy so you can identify your visitors!

(An Audubon guide is a great choice for older kids and adults, and a Golden guide works well for younger kids.)

Some butterflies love flower nectar, while others prefer to eat sugar from a rotting fruit. Learn two different ways to make a butterfly feeder and see if they attract different types of butterflies.

Make a Butterfly Feeder – Jar Method

Construct a butterfly feeder using a baby food jar and some sugar water. Adult supervision is recommended.

What You Need:

  • Small jar (like a baby food jar)
  • Hammer and nail
  • Kitchen sponge
  • String
  • Sugar
  • Water
  • Construction paper or artificial flowers

What You Do:

1. Make some butterfly food with nine parts water and one part sugar (use tablespoons or teaspoons depending on the size of your jar). Add the sugar to the water and boil in a pan until it is dissolved. Let it cool while you prepare the butterfly feeder.

2. Have an adult help you use a nail and a hammer to punch a small hole in the lid of the jar.

3. Cut a strip of the kitchen sponge and pull it through the hole in the lid, leaving about a half-inch sticking out from the top of the lid. You want the sponge to be a tight fit – it should get soaked with the sugar water, but not drip. (Test it by putting water in the jar and turning it upside down. If it leaks, try a bigger piece of sponge.)

4. Next, make a hanger. Tie some string around the mouth of the jar. Cut two more lengths of string about 30′ long. Take one and tie an end to the string around the mouth of the jar. Attach the other end on the opposite side of the jar to make a loop. Tie the second length of the string in the same way to make a second loop perpendicular to the first one. Use one more piece of string to tie the tops of the loops together. Now turn the jar upside down and make sure it hangs steadily.

5. Decorate the jar with brightly colored construction paper (flower shapes are best) or artificial flowers. The ‘prettier’ it is, the more it will attract butterflies!

6. Fill the jar with the cooled sugar water, screw the lid on tightly, and turn the jar upside down.

7. Hang your feeder outside and wait for the butterflies to come!

Make a Butterfly Feeder – Plate Method

Create this butterfly feeder quickly and easily! Plus, use up old fruit that usually gets thrown away.

  • A plate or plastic lid from a 1-gallon ice cream container.
  • String
  • Overripe, spoiling fruit. (See if your grocery store will let you have what they are throwing out for free if you don’t have any at home.)
  • Orange juice

1. Use the string to make a hanger for your plate. If you’re using an old ice cream lid you can punch holes in the side and tie the string to it. If it’s a plate that you can’t punch holes in, use tape. You can decorate the strings with artificial flowers to make it more attractive to butterflies.

2. Hang your plate from a tree branch before you fill it to make the process less messy! It will probably attract other bugs besides butterflies, so you may want to hang it in a far corner of your yard.

3. Put overripe fruit on the plate; try slices of watermelon, oranges, or bananas. You can also add some orange juice to keep the fruit from drying out as fast. Bananas will be mushier and more appealing to butterflies if you freeze them first and then thaw them and cut them in slices.

4. Watch and see what kinds of butterflies come to eat. Do different species prefer different kinds of fruit? How many butterflies can you see feeding on your plate at once?

5. When the fruit gets too dry, throw it out and put more on the plate.

More butterfly projects you might like:

  • Raising Butterflies + Video
  • Butterfly Life Cycle

To maintain monarchs in your classroom or home, you need to 1) know their behavior, 2) use the right food source, 3) deliver the food so it is accessible to the butterflies, 4) use an appropriate cage or container (at least 1 square foot in volume), and 5) maintain the monarchs at a temperature and light cycle that allows them to be active enough to feed.

BEHAVIOR

Monarchs…

1. Go to the light and go up.

2. Do not readily find food at the bottom of a cage.

3. Seldom feed the day of emergence.

4. Feed little during the second day unless temperatures are above 75F.

5. Need to feed more when the temperatures are higher.

6. Taste with their feet and extend their proboscis in the presence of water and/or juice/Gatorade/honey or sugar water. They may also be able to sense water with their antennae.

FEEDING

Recommended food for adult butterflies:

1. Gatorade (but not red – it stains)

2. Juicy Juice

3. Monarch Watch artificial nectar

4. Fresh cut fruits such as watermelons, cantaloupes, and grapes.

5. Honey water – 1pt honey and 9 pts water

Food not recommended for adult butterflies:

1. Sugar water – tends to become sticky and to gum up the proboscis

2. Fresh flowers – many flowers do not have nectar and those that do tend not to retain nectar for more than a day once they have been cut

Feeders

1. Feeders can be made from shallow containers and a plastic pot scrubber. Capillary action brings the nectar up the tines/coils of the scrubber, but usually not to the top, allowing the butterfly to feed while keeping its feet and wings dry.

2. Thin sponges

3. Any other system that allows the butterfly to get access to the nectar but allows them to keep dry.

Location of feeders

1. Top feeding – place thin sponges soaked with nectar, but not runny, on the screen top of the cage. Catch any drip with sponges at the bottom of the cage. Leave in place for several hours each day.

2. Elevated feeders – use a turned over flowerpot or other system to elevate a feeder to within 10” of the top of the cage.

Changing food

1. Gatorade – every 4-5 days

2. Juicy Juice – every two-three days

3. Monarch Watch nectar – once every 10 days

4. Cut fruits – every other day

5. Honey water – every day Feeding By Hand Some butterflies are reluctant to feed but can be assisted to feed by using a pin to extend the proboscis to a surface containing the nectar. Once the butterfly has started to feed, place a cover over the butterfly until it stops feeding. Time of day of feeding In culture, monarchs feed throughout the light period but tend to feed more in the first few hours of light.

CAGES

Recommended cages

1. Cage made from a cardboard box cut off top and cut holes in sides and cover with netting.

2. Laundry hamper cage – use clips or other devices to cover with tule or bridal veil netting.

3. Large aquarium covered with screen

4. A wood frame cage covered with screen

Not recommended

1. Butterfly pavilions or any form of tube cages

2. Any cage that does not allow you to place the feeders within 10” of the top of the cage.

MISTING

Mist the netting at the top of the cage or container twice a day

REFRIGERATION

To maintain monarchs for long periods, fed them well and place them in glassine envelopes in a sealable plastic container in a refrigerator. A moist paper towel that does not come in contact with the envelopes should be placed in the container. On a weekly basis, feed the butterflies by hand or place them in a cage with feeders for several hours (at temperatures >70F and ample lighting) and then return them to the refrigerator.

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Tiger Swallowtail
sips nectar from
Tropical milkweed through
its long “straw” (proboscis)

Most butterflies eat (actually they “drink”) from nectar plants (while the plants that caterpillars eat are called host plants). Each species of butterflies has nectar plants that they prefer but many adult butterflies will feed from a wide variety of nectar sources. Butterflies are not as specific in their food source as are their caterpillars. A few adult butterfly species even prefer rotting fruit and dung as opposed to nectar.

Below you will find a list of several popular butterfly species and their preferred nectar plants but keep in mind that butterflies will eat from many different nectar sources. In fact, you may find that in one part of the country the butterflies may prefer to eat from one type of nectar plant and in another area they may prefer a different nectar plant. Butterfly nectar plant preferences can even vary from garden to garden which may be due to changes in soil types, pH, etc.

The Family Butterfly Book, by Rick Mikula, is a great book to help in deciding what butterfly nectar plants perform best in your area. It has a section about best butterflies, host plants and nectar plants broken down by regions of the US including Hawaii, Alaska and parts of Canada. It is well illustrated with a lot of good information about raising butterflies. I own this book plus a book that is specific to my region (Butterflies of the East Coast by Rick Cech and Guy Tudor) which is very good as well.

The Family Butterfly Book is easy to read with a lot of practical advice for raising butterflies while the Butterflies of the East Coast book is a bit more scientific but is a great reference book for East Coast butterflies as well as having a lot of general butterfly information.

Following is a list of some common and/or popular backyard garden butterflies and their favorite nectar plants. In my experience I have found that butterflies are not terribly specific about their nectar plants. For example, one of the main plants I have seen Black Swallowtails visit in my yard is purple Homestead Verbena which is not listed anywhere (that I have found) as a favored nectar plant of Black Swallowtails. Another example of varied behavior is that my lantana stays constantly populated with sulphurs (as well as many other butterflies) even though lantana is not listed as one of their preferred nectar plants. The point is that these are only guidelines below and you will find many variations of plants and colors that the butterflies like best in your yard. Enjoy the diversity, and experiment to your liking.

Butterfly nectar plants/seeds (as well as the caterpillar host plants) can be found at various nurseries online. Click on the linked plants below for pictures, information and sources. Some plants like lantana will probably be easier to pick up from your local nursery.

BUTTERFLY SPECIES FAVORED NECTAR PLANTS
Anise Swallowtail columbine, Hall’s lomatium, leichtlin’s camas, New England Aster, lantana
Eastern Black
Swallowtail
Milkweed, Phlox
Giant Swallowtail lantana, orange
Pipevine Swallowtail_______ Azalea, Honeysuckle, Orchid, Mexican Sunflower (Tithonia)
Spicebush Swallowtail . Joe-Pye Weed, Sweet Joe Pye Weed, Jewelweed, Lantana, honeysuckle, Mexican Sunflower (Tithonia)
Eastern Tiger
Swallowtail
Bee Balm (Monarda), Butterfly Bush, Honeysuckle, Sunflower, Mexican Sunflower (Tithonia)
Zebra Swallowtail Milkweed, Joe-Pye Weed, Sweet Joe Pye Weed, Red Clover, Zinnia, Cosmos sulphureus, Lantana,Pentas, daisy
Monarch Milkweed, New England Aster, Red Clover, Zinnia, Cosmos sulphureus, Lantana, Pentas, daisy, Mexican Sunflower (Tithonia)
Viceroy Milkweed, New England Aster, Red Clover, Zinnia, Cosmos sulphureus, Lantana, Pentas, daisy, rotting fruit
Red-Spotted
Purple
rotting fruit, dung, small white flowers such as a white Buddleia
Great Spangled
Fritillary
Milkweed, New England Aster, Red Clover, Zinnia, Cosmos sulphureus, Lantana, Pentas, daisy
Variegated Fritillary meadow flowers, Hibiscus, composite family
Meadow Fritillary meadow flowers, composite family
Mourning Cloak rotting fruit, dung, meadow flowers
Question Mark rotting fruit, dung, meadow flowers
Green Comma dung, fruits, puddles
Red Admiral Cosmos sulphureus, fruit, Gaillardia
Painted Lady variety of garden and field plants
American Painted
Lady
Burdock, daisy, everlastings, Mallow, Malva sylvestris, Yarrow, Zinnia, Heliotrope
Buckeye Gaillardia, Lantana, Cosmos sulphureus, clovers
Baltimore
Checkerspot
Lobelia, Purple Coneflower, Gaillardia
Pearly Crescentspot Zinnia, daisies, clovers, Goldenrod
Great Purple
Hairstreak
daisy, Purple Coneflower, clovers
Gray Hairstreak Yarrow, meadow and edge flowers
American Copper daisy, dandelion, clovers, Milkweed
Tailed Blue daisy, dandelion, clovers, Milkweed
Spring Azure Coltsfoot, daisy, Milkweed, other meadow flowers
Cloudless Sulphur hibiscus, cassia, Pentas, bougainvillea
Clouded Sulphur clovers, dandelion, Phlox, Milkweed
Orange Sulphur clovers, dandelion, Parsley, Zinnia, other meadow flowers, composite family
Dogface clovers, thistles, most composite flowers
Checkered White dandelion, Gaillardia, Purple Coneflower
Cabbage White many garden and meadow flowers
Zebra Longwing Hibiscus, Pentas, Lantana
Gulf Fritillary hibiscus, Pentas, Lantana
Malachite rotting fruit, dung, mud

There are a few nectar plants that attract so many butterflies in my garden that I will always make sure I have them every year. They are: Zinnia, Tithonia, Butterfly Bush, Lantana, and Milkweed(which doubles as a host plant for Monarchs).

If you are interested in raising caterpillars to butterflies then you will also want to plant what the caterpillars eat. By planting host plants for the caterpillars as well as nectar plants for the butterflies you will not only attract the butterflies but they will stay around longer and will soon be laying eggs. Before long you will have eggs/caterpillars to bring indoors or watch in your garden as they go through the incredible journey to become butterflies.

Habitat loss, climate change and pesticide use have decreased butterfly populations.

Unbeknownst to many butterflies do not live on nectar alone, some species prefer, even require, overripe fruit to feed on. Decaying fruits have carbohydrates and minerals, necessary to most butterflies. Supply them with flowers, fruit, water and plants for their caterpillar stage, and you will hopefully have a large and happy, diverse population.

Best Food for Butterflies

Watermelon turns rather rapidly, feeding overripe fruit to butterflies, seems like a perfect purpose for it. There are approximately 20,000 species of butterflies in the world. About 725 species can be found in North America/north of Mexico, approximately 2000 species in Mexico, 3500 in Peru, 275 species in Canada and 440 in Europe. Photo by Toshio, Flickr.

Fruit dehydrates and seals up, therefore slices need to be cut into the fruit daily, making more juice available. A Blue Morpho drinking banana juice at Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens.

Watermelon on a stick. Monarchs can live up to nine months. Monarch larvae only eat milkweed, see bottom of page. Photo by Maggie Rattay, Flickr.

Making cuts across the fruit allows more juice to be available. This picture was found on Visit Gainesville.

Fruit salad for butterflies. Photo by Charley Chrizzy, originally found at charleychrizzy.deviantart.com/art/Butterfly-eating-fruit-308896470. Charley Chrizzy has since de-activated their account.

Favorite time of the year is fall and winter. The Colors, the weather, the festivals and the food that my mom makes around thins time are just perfect! #butterflyfeeding #monarchbutterfly

A post shared by jazzy (@bajo.la.misma.luna_) on Oct 17, 2016 at 12:38pm PDT

If you want to be up close and personal with the butterflies, without harming them, try soaking a clean painting sponge with butterfly food. The hardest part is waiting for them to come!

A butterfly enjoying a dragon fruit. More photos of butterflies can be found on HubPages.

Many species seem to love watermelon. Unlike bees, butterflies can see the color red. This photo can be found at the faq.gardenweb on Houzz.

A Question Mark butterfly eating kiwi in a saucer set on a post. The insidestorey.blogspot has more pictures of the visitors that came to this home, including a Black Swallowtail.

A stunning blue butterfly eating an orange at this garden. This particular feeding area has pictures of flowers on the surface to help the butterflies find the feeding tubes.

Water, minerals, and taste. Photo by Santa Barbarian, Flickr.

Butterflies love red, orange, purple, and yellow. Butterflies have good color vision, sensing more “wavelengths” than either humans or bees.

Butterflies are particularly fond of oranges, grapefruits, cantelope, strawberries, peaches, nectarines, kiwi, apples, watermelon, and bananas, especially mushy bananas that have been stored in the freezer and then thawed. Some species love a “brew” of rotting fruit, molasses, beer, and brown sugar. Some like moist mushroom compost.

Hummingbirds and some species of butterfly like simple sugar syrup: mix 4 parts water to 1 part sugar, boil mixture just untill the sugar dissolves, then be sure to allow the sugar mixture to cool before feeding butterflies. Adding soy sauce gives a dose of minerals and salt. Do not feed butterflies this sugar mix or honey during very cold or very dry weather as the sugar could re-crystallize inside them before being digested. Fructose is the safest bet for those times as it does not crystallize. A recipe: butterflyboutique.net. Lots of recipes here: faq.gardenweb, although I question the long term effects of the food coloring in the Gatorade that so many people have success with.

Flowers with Nectar that Butterflies Enjoy (partial list)

Pollinators love #beebalm! We still have a few left ! #perennials #stonyhillfarms #stonyhillgardens #spring2017 #attractbutterflies

A post shared by Stony Hill Farms (@stonyhillfarms) on Jun 30, 2017 at 7:26am PDT

Remember Monarch larvae only eat milkweed

Plant some milkweed in your garden, and don’t pick off the caterpillars! ‘Milkweeds and nectar sources are declining due to development and the widespread use of herbicides in croplands, pastures, and roadsides. Because 90% of all milkweed/monarch habitats occur within the agricultural landscape, farm practices have the potential to strongly influence monarch populations.’ Spraying Round-Up and herbicides on roadsides reduces monarch populations. More information can be found at Monarch Watch.

Milkweed Seed

  • Butterfly Encounters: You can purchase seeds online from this California-based company.
  • Live Monarch: Free seed! This company is from Florida, but you can reach them on their site.
  • Los Angeles Times: Find out how to plant Milkweed in this article.

Black Swallowtail larvae eat the leaves of dill, parsley, carrot, and fennel. Painted lady larvae eat thistle leaves.

Make A Successful Butterfly Feeder

Putting a plate inside a larger plate or saucer that is filled with water will keep ants away from the fruit. Butterflies have a good sense of smell, they have scent receptors at the ends of their antennas, and taste receptors on the bottoms of their feet. This photo can be seen at 8 WGAL.

To attract butterflies add neon pink, red, and orange plastic scrubbers to your plate or bowl. Butterflies are restricted to an all-liquid diet due to their straw-like proboscis. Photo by Leskra: Panoramio.

Butterflies galore at Niagara Butterfly Conservatory! #NiagaraButterflies #ButterfliesGalore #ButterflyFeeding

A post shared by choogi (@choogi) on Aug 2, 2013 at 10:47pm PDT

These butterflies are wasting no time to drink from these orange slices. The sign behind them is a great reminder to be gentle with these delicate beauties.

Painting flowers on a tray helps the butterflies locate the fruit. This picture features a portion of the Munich Botanical Gardens from hollyopnshk.blogspot.

Increase your chances of the butterflies finding their offering by having flowers close by, or paint or tape colorful flowers (real or fake) to the plate or hanging apparatus. To hang, cut three holes in a saucer, string with wire or chain and hang.

Mud Puddles

Male Butterflies need extra minerals and enjoy mud puddles. The extra sodium and amino acids are transferred to the female along with the spermatophore during mating. This nutrition enhances the survival rate of the eggs. The minerals also help in the production of pheromones which attract females. To make butterfly puddles, bury a container and then fill with sand or gravel. Fill with water, a sweet drink or stale beer.

At night and during wet weather, butterflies take shelter underneath leaves, among grass blades, or in a crevice of a rock.

How Butterflies Eat

When not in use, butterflies keep their proboscis coiled up, then unfurl it to suck up nectar, pollen, tree sap, rotting fruit, dung, or other foods that are in a liquid state. The proboscis is discussed further in the article by AskNature, where this photograph was found.

When unwound their proboscis acts as a straw. A Purple Duke extends its proboscis deep into the fruit of the Singapore Rhododendron. At Butterflies Of Singapore you can discover more about the relationship between the butterflies and the Singapore Rhododendron.

Close-Up of a butterfly’s proboscis (coiled straw) coated with pollen. Due to their long legs, nectar eating butterflies pick up only small amounts of pollen on their visits to flowers. Many moths are actually better pollinators than butterflies. Photo by Melissa, Flickr.

Due to the butterflies’ fragility to ecological change, they are an excellent indicator of an ecosystem’s health. Malachite butterflies feeding at a butterfly farm in Germany, photo by Andreas Adelmann, Flickr.

Two Tailed Pasha drinking from an orange. Photo by Forbe5, Flickr.

Butterflies taste with their feet. A Black Swallowtail drinking watermelon juice. More pictures of butterflies can be found at Inside Storey.

Because butterflies are cold blooded, they cannot fly if their body temperature is less than 86 degrees, so keep the fruit in the sun and out of strong winds. If your thinking about adding flowers to attract butterflies, Buena Vista Butterfly Farm has a great list of plants that you can look at.

_PaulS_/CC BY 2.0

Pity the monarch butterflies! Not only do the earnest flutterers fly up to 265 miles a day on their trek back to northern climes, but they must do so in the face of a number of challenges.

Some years bring strong south winds and unusually warm weather, which can throw off the timing of the migration. Scientists and butterfly observers alike stay on the watch for “ecological mismatch.” Concerns include whether or not milkweed host-plants will be ready for their lepidopteran guests. Will there be a surprise cold snap? Will the unusual weather affect breeding success?

The butterflies are at a critical point. Population estimates rise and fall, but deforestation of the overwintering habitat in Mexico continues to threaten the species.

In the north (U.S. and Canada), the butterflies face habitat destruction thanks to new roads, housing developments, and agricultural expansion. They are also up against more subtle forms of habitat destruction in the loss of milkweed, which larvae feed on exclusively.

Considered a pesky nuisance by many, it is often weeded into oblivion. Both milkweed and nectar plants are vulnerable to the herbicides used by landscapers, farmers, and gardeners, and others — not to mention the lethal impact insecticides have on the butterflies.

puuikibeach/CC BY 2.0

Re-establishing milkweed is crucial. “Monarch butterfly populations are declining due to loss of habitat. To assure a future for monarchs, conservation and restoration of milkweeds needs to become a national priority,” said Chip Taylor, Director of Monarch Watch

So if you have an extra patch of dirt, perhaps consider planting some milkweed. In the meantime, you can also help the flitting lovelies by using leftovers to making butterfly food.

Recipe 1

Suite101 suggests using a plate feeder. Add fruit that is going bad. Butterflies are particularly fond of sliced, rotting oranges, grapefruits, strawberries, peaches, nectarines apples and bananas. Place on plates and put outside. The mixture can be kept moist by adding water or fruit juice.

Recipe 2

From The Butterfly Garden, by Matthew Tekulsky (Harvard Common Press, 1985) comes this formula which makes use of old bananas and flat beer.

  • 1 pound sugar
  • 1 or 2 cans stale beer
  • 3 mashed overripe banana
  • 1 cup of molasses or syrup
  • 1 cup of fruit juice
  • 1 shot of rum

Mix all ingredients well and paint on trees, fence posts, rocks, or stumps–or simply soak a sponge in the mixture and hang from a tree-limb.

Recipe 3

Master Gardener Bobbie Truell from Texas A & M University recommends this simple alternative food source.

  • 4 parts water
  • 1 part granulated sugar

1. Boil the solution for several minutes until sugar is dissolved, and then let cool. Serve the solution in a shallow container with an absorbent material such as paper towels saturated with the sugar solution.

2. Bright yellow and orange kitchen scouring pads may be placed in the solution to attract butterflies and give them a resting place while they drink.

3. Place the feeder among your nectar flowers on a post that’s 4-6 inches higher than the tallest blooms. Extra solution can be stored in your refrigerator for up to a week.

The Short Answer:

Butterflies drink liquids, primarily nectar from flowers and juices from fruits.

What Are Butterflies?

Butterflies are insects from the order Lepidoptera (which includes moths) that are known for their beautiful scaled wings. They are very versatile and are found in every type of habitat and on every continent but Antarctica.

Like all insects, they have three main body parts: a head, a thorax, and an abdomen. Butterflies also have a pair of antennae, six jointed legs, four wings, and an exoskeleton (an external skeleton as opposed to an internal one like humans have).

Unlike most insects, butterflies also have scales. In fact, out of all the insects, only butterflies and moths have scales, and these scales are on their bodies as well as their wings.

Fun Fact: Lepidoptera means “scaly wings” in Latin.

Butterflies can range in size from as small as 0.5 inches (the Western Pygmy Blue butterfly) to up to 12 inches (the Queen Alexandra’s Birdwing butterfly). Their lifespan is anywhere from a week to a year depending on their size (larger butterflies tend to live longer).

What’s the Difference Between Butterflies and Moths?

While they are sometimes confused for one another due to their similar appearance, butterflies and moths are distinctly different.

While there are exceptions, butterflies tend to be brightly colored and diurnal (active during the day), and moths tend to be drab in color and nocturnal (active at night).

When in doubt, the easiest way to tell the difference between the two is to look at their antennae.

Butterflies have thinner, smoother antennae that have club-shaped tips, and moths have thicker, feathery antennae with no distinct tips.

Butterflies are typically smaller than moths and less furry. They also tend to fold their wings up and back when resting, while moths rest with their wings either spread out or flattened against their bodies.

The two also differ in their feeding habits. Most butterflies rest on their food source to eat, while most moths hover (like a hummingbird) over their food source to eat.

What Do Butterflies Eat?

Butterflies don’t eat in the traditional sense. Instead, they drink!

Butterflies will drink any liquid (especially if it is high in sugar or salt), but they primarily drink nectar from flowers or juices from fruits.

While most butterflies have an all liquid diet, there are some notable exceptions: such as the Zebra Longwing butterfly (which can externally digest pollen and then drink it up) and the Harvester butterfly (which is carnivorous and eats aphids).

How Do Butterflies Get Their Food?

Instead of having a mouth, butterflies sip liquids using a long, narrow, straw-like appendage called a proboscis. It extends from the front of their head, and it can roll up when not in use. (Think of it as a super long and flexible “tongue” that is basically a straw.)

Fun Fact: Butterflies taste with their feet!

Since they don’t have mouths, butterflies have taste sensors on their feet that enable them to tell what plants taste like when they land on them. These sensors also allow the butterflies to tell if a food source is edible for their young to eat, which in turn helps them to determine where to lay their eggs!

Here is a video of a butterfly eating that you can check out when you are tired of watching cat videos!

What Do Baby Butterflies (Caterpillars) Eat?

Baby butterflies are called caterpillars, and they have a different diet than adult butterflies.

Let’s start with a brief summary of a butterfly’s life cycle so that we can better understand their dietary requirements.

Butterflies undergo metamorphosis (which is where they transform into an adult through different stages), and their life cycle consists of four basic steps: egg, larva, pupa, and imago.

First, a female butterfly will lay an egg or eggs (it depends upon the species), and then a male butterfly will deposit sperm and fertilize it.

Next, the egg hatches into a caterpillar, which is also known as a larva. It is immediately hungry and able to eat once hatched, and often it eats its own egg. During this stage, the caterpillar will molt (shed its skin) several times.

Then, the caterpillar makes a pupa (which is also known as a chrysalis) to protect it while it undergoes its change to a butterfly.

While the image of a butterfly emerging out of a cocoon is iconic, most butterflies do not have cocoons (but most moths do). Instead, the chrysalis is made of hardened protein (while cocoons are spun out of silk).

Lastly, an adult butterfly emerges and continues the life cycle.

An important factor to keep in mind is that caterpillars do not have a proboscis. Therefore, they are not limited to liquids like adult butterflies are.

Instead, caterpillars eat mostly leaves and plant parts. The main impediment to their diet is that some species only eat specific plants as caterpillars (as opposed to their adult form). For example, Monarch caterpillars only eat milkweed plants, but Monarch butterflies eat milkweed nectar as well as other flower nectars and other liquids.

What Do Adult Butterflies Eat?

As mentioned previously, adult butterflies will drink any liquid and can eat anything that will dissolve in water. They also prefer liquids high in sugar and salt.

Butterflies love sugary foods (such as nectar) which are high in calories but low in nutrients which is why they have such short lifespans. Many butterflies live mainly off the fat they accumulated in their caterpillar stage.

Remember those exceptions to the all liquid diet we talked about earlier? The Zebra Longwings and the Harvesters? Well, they live much longer than their counterparts because they get more nutrients from their diets!

Butterflies also love salt, which is a necessary component for their reproduction since it increases their chances of reproductive success. This love of salt also explains why butterflies will land on humans. They love our sweat!

While nectar and fruit juices are a staple in their diet, butterflies will also eat tree sap, animal droppings, rotting fruit, and mud. Yes, mud.

There is a phenomenon where butterflies, typically males, will gather on shallow puddles or mud so that they can drink extra minerals. This is known as “puddling” or “mud-puddling.”

Fun Fact: Groups of butterflies that are gathered at wet soil are called “puddle clubs.”

Butterflies need lots of liquids. If there are no liquids available, then they can regurgitate their food into the soil and then re-drink it to get nutrients. They are hard-core survivalists!

Butterfly Food Options

Here are a couple of butterfly food options:

Fruits

Bananas (unpeeled)

Cherries

Grapefruits

Oranges

Peaches

Plums

Strawberries

Watermelons (sliced)

Plants

Asters

Azaleas

Borages

Butterfly Bushes

Calendulas

Cosmos

Dandelions

Daisies

Delphiniums

Hibiscuses

Honeysuckles

Lantanas

Lilacs

Milkweeds

Orchids

Purple Coneflowers

Red Clovers

Snapdragons

Sunflowers

Thistles

Verbenas

Zinnias

How Often Should You Feed Butterflies?

Butterflies are constantly grazing throughout the day, so they need continuous access to liquids.

If you are trying to attract butterflies, then you can plant flowering plants or fruit-bearing trees. You can also place mud in a dish in your yard to encourage “puddling.”

There are also bright, flower-shaped feeders that you can buy to attract butterflies that you can fill with sugar water. Or you can use a colored sponge soaked with sugar water (just remember to re-soak the sponge daily).

While you can buy packaged sugar water for butterflies, you can also make your own.

Just use a 1:4 ratio of sugar to water: dissolve one-part sugar in four-parts boiling water and place in a feeder or on a sponge. Do not add food coloring because it is not good for butterflies!

Fun Fact: A group of butterflies is called a flutter, a swarm, a rainbow, a rabble, or a kaleidoscope. That’s a lot of options! A group of caterpillars is called an army.

Summary of What Do Butterflies Eat?

Butterflies drink liquids, primarily nectar from flowers and juices from fruits.

Butterflies are insects from the order Lepidoptera that sip liquid using a long, narrow, straw-like appendage called a proboscis.

They are sometimes confused with moths since both have scales, but the easiest way to differentiate the two is to look at their antennae.

Butterflies have thinner, smoother antennae that have club-shaped tips, and moths have thicker, feathery antennae with no distinct tips.

Butterflies undergo metamorphosis (which is where they transform into an adult through different stages), and the four basic steps in their life cycle are egg, larva, pupa, and imago.

Baby butterflies are called caterpillars, and they do not have a proboscis like adult butterflies do. Instead of being limited to liquids, they eat mostly leaves and plant material.

Butterflies are constantly grazing throughout the day, so they need continuous access to liquids

If there are no liquids available, then butterflies can regurgitate their food into the soil and then re-drink it to get more nutrients. Butterflies also prefer liquids that are high in sugar and salt.

Butterflies have been known to practice “puddling” or “mud-puddling” where they gather on shallow puddles or mud so that they can drink extra minerals.

If you are looking to attract butterflies, then you can either buy packaged sugar water from a store, or you can make your own.

Some of our other articles:

What do hummingbirds eat?

What do squirrels eat?

What do sea turtles eat?

Can rabbits eat celery?

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This sugar water for butterflies recipe is sure to attract a wide array of butterflies to your garden.

Flying flowers – as butterflies are often referred to – are an essential part of the garden.

Their colorful wing span and the way they gracefully land upon a wide variety of plants where they sip nectar from the smallest flowers imaginable – such as the tiny flowers that cluster together on the butterfly bush or even milkweed – delight young and old alike.

Here is how you can help these beautiful pollinators survive.

There are also links to products I recommend from companies I have a referral relationship with. I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links.

Butterflies Are In Danger – And It Does Matter!

Butterflies are the second largest pollinator – surpassed only by bee’s.

The sad part is butterflies are in decline – just like bee’s.

This is why as a gardener it is so important to me to grow the plants they need and supply extra sugar water.

While I can’t save every butterfly, I can help provide the butterflies that visit my garden what they need for their continued survival.

How To Help Butterflies

There is something each and every one of us can do – and we must work together to help save the butterflies before it is too late.

Here is how you can help!

  • Make the choice to grow organically.
  • Avoid using chemical sprays and chemical fertilizers in and around our property and encourage others to do the same.
  • Plant sources of natural nectar such as milkweed, goldenrod, Joe-pye weed, black-eyed Susans and Echinacea (coneflower).
  • In addition to offering a source of natural nectar, offer fruit such as oranges, bananas and watermelon. The fruit doesn’t have to be fresh, in fact rotting fruit seems to be their preference! Simply make a shallow place in your garden that butterflies can get a drink from. A birdbath, a small plant saucer or even a shallow bowl filled with rocks works great! This gives the butterflies a place to sit without drowning while they drink.
  • Strategically place butterfly feeders throughout your yard and keep them filled with fresh sugar water.
  • Mist plants with butterfly nectar. Butterflies are attracted to the droplets of water on plant foliage.

Here is a short video I took in my garden of butterflies feeding on rotting fruit.

How To Make Nectar For Butterflies

Making homemade butterfly nectar is not hard.

In fact, it is very similar to making hummingbird nectar.

Here is what you do:

  1. Put four cups water and 1 cup organic granulated cane sugar into a stainless steel pan and bring it to a boil.
  2. Boil the mixture until the sugar dissolves.
  3. Remove the pan from the heat and allow the mixture to cool.
  4. Once the mixture is cool, pour it into a butterfly feeder.
  5. Pour any leftover cooled nectar into a glass jar with a lid and place it in the refrigerator. It will keep for 7 days.

How To Make A Butterfly Feeder

If you don’t have a butterfly feeder, don’t worry – you can make one.

Here is what you need:

  • a shallow pan
  • colorful (yellow, orange or red) plastic kitchen scouring pads (select ones without soap)

Here is what you do:

  1. Simply place the sponges in the pan (make sure there are enough to fill the pan) and pour the nectar over the sponges.
  2. Place this outdoors in an area where butterflies frequent.
  3. Make sure it is about 6 inches taller than your tallest plants in that area.
  4. Soon they will find it and sip from it.

I highly recommend the following articles:

  • Tips For Starting A Container Garden
  • Creative Container Flower Gardening Ideas
  • Growing Tropical Plants
  • Easy To Grow Tomatoes Ideal For Container Gardens
  • Creative Tips for Container Gardening

Butterfly Garden Feeding: How To Feed And Water Butterflies In Gardens

Butterflies are fascinating creatures that bring an element of grace and color to the garden. They are also effective pollinators for a variety of trees and plants. Additionally, many butterfly types are endangered and via your butterfly garden, you’re doing your part to preserve these precious, winged beauties.

Planting a variety of butterfly-friendly plants is only the beginning. A successful butterfly garden requires an understanding of butterfly garden feeding, including beneficial food and water sources for butterflies.

How to Feed and Water Butterflies

Butterflies are picky about their diets and different types of butterflies have different preferences, but in general, they require a liquid or semi-liquid diet. Most are happy with the sweet nectar in flowers, but others like foods that humans find unpalatable, such as rotten fruit, animal manure or tree sap.

If you want to attract a variety of butterflies it’s a good idea to provide a variety of food. Sweet, gooey foods are especially effective – the smellier and goopier, the better. For example, think mushy apples or overripe bananas mashed with a little molasses. Many butterflies also enjoy sliced oranges.

Some people have excellent luck with sugar water or a little sports drink, but not the artificially sweetened type!

Create a Butterfly Feeding Station

A butterfly feeding station doesn’t need to be involved, fancy or expensive. It just needs to be accessible.

For example, a butterfly feeding station can be a metal pie pan or plastic plate. Drill three holes equidistant in the plate, then hang the plate from a tree with string, wire or a pretty macramé-type hanger. Butterflies will be happy if you hang the feeder in a shady spot, in close proximity to nectar-rich flowers.

Likewise, you can use a shallow dish placed on a stand, among some rocks in the garden, or even on a tree stump. As long as it’s in a location with some of their favorite plants nearby, they will come.

Butterfly Water Feeder (“Puddlers”)

Butterfly water feeders really aren’t necessary to supply water and butterflies don’t need bird baths or ponds because they get the liquid they need from nectar. However, they need places to “puddle,” as “puddling” provides the critical minerals that butterflies require. Here are a couple ways to create puddlers that butterflies will love.

Spread a thin layer of dirt in the bottom of a shallow pie pan or dish. Arrange some rocks in the pan so the butterflies have a place to land. Cut a kitchen sponge into various shapes and arrange the sponges between the rocks, or put one large sponge in the center of the plate. Keep the sponges damp so the water slowly seeps to keep the soil moist. Put the puddler in a sunny, protected area near butterfly-friendly flowers where you can keep an eye on the visitors.

A similar version of a puddler is to bury a shallow plate or bowl in the ground so the lip of the container is even with the surface of the soil. Fill the container with sand, then arrange a few rocks or wood chunks on the soil for landing spots. Add water as needed to keep the sand consistently wet. Butterflies will love it!

Attract Butterflies By Making A DIY Feeder in 6 Simple Steps

There are 561 known butterfly species in the United States and Canada, all of which pollinate your flowers. Encourage butterflies to visit your yard and pollinate your plants by making a butterfly feeder. It’s easy!

UPDATE: Due to an overwhelming number of requests from readers, we’ve updated this post by adding a full step-by-step with instructional photographs. Thanks for your input!

For this project, you’ll need:

mason jar or baby food jar with sealable lid

kitchen sponge

hammer and nail

heavy-duty string

sugar

scissors

saucepan

flower stickers or decorative tape (optional)

1. Prepare “Butterfly Food” by Mixing 9 Parts Water + 1 Part Sugar

If you are using a mason jar for your feeder, use tablespoons. If you are using a baby food jar, use teaspoons. Be careful not to add too much sugar to the water or it may dehydrate the butterflies! Bring the mixture to a boil in a pan on your stovetop until the sugar is completely dissolved. Set the solution aside until you’re finished the rest of the project so it can cool completely. Note: Some evidence suggests dyes may have negative health effects on humming birds. If you have humming birds in your region, we suggest making this sugar solution without dyes and making your feeder extra colorful, instead!

2. Make a Small Hole in the Mason Jar Lid

Using a nail and hammer, punch a small hole in the center of the lid. A piece of a sponge will need to fit snuggly in the hole, so keep it small – you can always make it bigger if necessary.

3. Place a Piece of Sponge Through the Hole

Cut a 1/2 inch strip from your sponge, then pull it through the hole in the lid so about half of the sponge is sticking out from the top – you’ll want the sponge to be a tight fit. When your jar is filled with the sugar water, the sponge needs to be soaked with the solution, but not dripping. Tip: Before you go any further, test your sponge’s fit by putting water into the jar and turning it upside down. If it drips, you will need to cut a larger piece.

4. Decorate your Feeder

Before you tie any string around the jar, decorate your jar with brightly colored stickers, construction paper or washi tape. Flower shapes and bright colors are great options, because they imitate the real deal and hopefully entice butterflies to visit your feeder!

5. Use String to Make a Hanger

Flip your jar upside down. Tie some string around the neck of the jar (slightly below the lid). Cut two more pieces of string that are about two feet long. Take one end of the string and tie it to the piece that is already secured around the neck of the jar. Then, attach the other end to the string on the opposite side of the jar. This should make a loop and will allow for your jar to hang upside down. Tie the second length of string in the same way to make a second loop, perpendicular to the first.

6. Secure the String

Place a final piece of string (or whatever material you want to hang your butterfly feeder with) through your two hanging loops to pull them together. Your jar should hang evenly. If it does, fill your jar with the cooled sugar water and screw on the lid tightly (with the sponge fitted through the hole). Tip: Before you hang your feeder, flip your jar upside down to make sure there’s not a leak.

7. Hang Your Feeder

That’s it! Now you can hang your feeder outside. It will work best if it’s placed about six inches higher than your tallest flowers or three feet down from a tree branch. This way, it will be most visible to those beautiful butterflies!

RELATED: Angie’s List of Landscapers Near Me

Not only do butterflies bring color and beauty to the garden, but they do important work by pollinating flowers. Moreover, many species are endangered and so need our help and protection.

Why not provide a little something to attract more of these magical creatures, and reward them for their contribution to your garden? A butterfly feeder will tick both these boxes, plus many serve as pretty garden ornaments too!

Here are 14 of the best DIY butterfly feeders:

1. Plate Feeder

Made by suspending an old plate on string from a tree, this feeder is decorated with colorful glass beads and bright silk flowers to sparkle and attract the butterflies. A sugar solution provides them with nourishment and energy.

2. Simple Fruit Hook

Create a series of butterfly feeders on a long tree branch by hanging hooks made from heavy gauge copper wire at 6-inch intervals. Bait the hooks with large chunks of ripe fruit such as oranges, mangoes, watermelon, papaya and bananas.

3. Glass Jar Feeder

This functional feeder is constructed by filling a glass jar with a sugary solution and suspending it upside down from a tree or garden trellis. A small piece of sponge protruding from a hole in the jar’s lid allows the butterflies to access the sweet, homemade nectar.

4. Thrifty Feeder

A pretty feeder can be created entirely for free by using thrifted goods – this simple one is made with a salad plate and glass sundae dish!

5. Easy Feeder – Made by Kids

Entertain the kids for an hour or two while teaching them about nature when putting together this butterfly feeder. All you need is a plastic planter, some string, beads and butterfly food!

6. Natural Sea Sponge Feeder

A less colorful affair, this feeder will blend into your garden while nonetheless attracting pollinators. While many feeders use a dyed, synthetic kitchen sponge, this project requires a natural sea sponge which is safer for butterflies and other insects to feed from.

7. Tin Can Feeder

Fill a tin can with some bright and colorful flowers, along with a small cotton ball soaked in sugar water, and stick an artificial butterfly on the side. The butterflies will come in their droves!

8. Jug Feeder

A Martha Stewart inspired beautiful feeder adorned with flowery stencils and stickers. Filled with sugar syrup, this is sure to attract hordes of butterflies to your garden.

9. Sugar Syrup and Clementine Feeder

Take a clean and shallow glass jar, fill it with flat rocks and place a sugary sponge on top. Adorn with clementine segments or another fruit and place in the garden – DIY doesn’t get much simpler!

10. Recycled Butterfly Oasis

Give nature a helping hand twice by feeding the butterflies with something made entirely from recycled household objects! Save up your toilet rolls, straws, pipe cleaners, colored plastic bottle caps and yarn and get to work.

11. Water Feeder

Butterflies don’t just need food, they need a source of fresh water to rehydrate, particularly during a scorching summer day. This rustic hanging feeder provides a safe place to drink and bathe for birds, bees and butterflies.

12. DIY Recycled Mini Feeder

With a yogurt lid, hole puncher and pieces of twine, you’ll have this mini feeder created in mere minutes. It’s also easy and safe enough for children to construct.

13. Spiral Wire Feeder

Twist wire into a spiral shape, ensuring it is closed at the end, fill with bright sweet fruit and hang from a tree. You can also play around and create other shapes too – just make sure it will be able to hold in the butterfly food!

14. Salt Lick

Although butterflies get most of their nutrition from nectar, they also require salt and other important minerals which they tend to get from mud puddles – a behavior known as puddling! When mud puddles are scare – such as at the height of summer – male butterflies will be especially grateful for this salt lick, made from sand from the seashore, water, and butterfly perches formed from driftwood, a few shells and sea glass shards.

Best Butterfly Feeders On Amazon

DIY not your thing? Then consider buying one of the beautiful butterfly feeders instead.

What to Put in Your Feeder?

Butterflies tend to be choosy when it comes to their dinner and, although different varieties have different preferences, they generally prefer a liquid or semi-liquid diet. To attract different butterflies, you should provide a variety of foods.

Many species of butterflies are attracted to sweet and somewhat decaying smells – think overripe (or almost rotting) fruit such as bananas, melons, apples, plums, pears, mangoes, papaya and berries.

Others like orange segments, while more enjoy a mixture made from mashed over-ripe banana and molasses.

A little homemade sugar ‘nectar’ will also see them flock to your garden from all around. Dissolve one part granulated sugar in four parts boiling water and allow to cool completely. You can store this in the fridge for up to one week.

Don’t forget that butterflies mainly feed on the nectar of flowers, so consider planting these 30 beautiful varieties of plants to attract them, as well as brightening up your garden!

Think “rotten” when choosing butterfly food. Butterflies like a variety of food sources, especially over-ripe fruit and rotting vegetation. If you own an apple, plum, cherry or pear tree, allow fallen fruit to ferment on the ground to create a favorite feeding spot. Look in the quick-sale area of your grocer’s produce section, and you might even get the produce manager to donate one or two unsaleable pieces of fruit. Consider saving extra bananas in the freezer, which you can defrost and place in a feeder at any time.

Make your own butterfly food by mixing a solution of 10 parts water to 1 part granulated sugar (use tablespoons or teaspoons depending on the size of your jar), boiling the mixture until the sugar is dissolved, then letting it cool. Extra solution can be stored in your refrigerator for up to a week. An alternative recipe is to cut up a dozen over-ripe bananas into chunks, add two cans of cheap beer, one or two bottles of molasses, and a pound of brown sugar and let it ferment for about a week. The easiest recipe of all is to save any overripe fruit, add a squirt of honey, blend it coarsely in a blender, then divide the mixture into freezer containers.

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