According to a study published in the June 2003 issue of "Conservation Biology," there are 561 known butterfly species in the US and Canada, while there are only 56 butterfly species remaining in British counties, as a result of disappearing habitat. Not only are these insects beautiful, they're important pollinators and vital to the health of their natural habitats. You can encourage these gentle creatures to visit your garden by using easy-to-make butterfly food and feeders.
Butterfly Food and Nectar
Think "rotten" when choosing butterfly food. Butterflies like a variety of food sources, especially overripe 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 favourite 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 4 parts water to 1 part granulated sugar, 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 overripe 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.
Take a ceramic or glass pie plate, plastic or terra cotta plant saucer---or any dish with a sloping rim---and suspend the plate with flower pot hangers or a macrame-style holder made from household twine. Decorate around the twine with the stems of silk or plastic flowers to make it visually appealing to butterflies, and hang the feeder from the bough of a shady tree, before adding butterfly food. Replace food if it dries out or becomes mouldy. Place brightly coloured yellow and orange kitchen scouring pads in the dish with the liquid butterfly food solution. You'll attract butterflies and give them a resting place while they drink.
To make a jar feeder, use any small glass jar that has a tight-fitting lid. Punch a small hole in the lid of the jar using a small nail and a hammer, then cut a portion of a sponge and pull it through the small hole, making sure it fits tightly. Soak the sponge with a sugar-water solution, and fill the jar with the solution as well. Use string to tie around the jar to make a hanger, then hang the jar with the sugar water upside-down so that the butterflies can feed on the juice from the sponge.
- Jonathan Fong