Butterfly Palace: Homemade Butterfly Food

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See how to make your Own Homemade Butterfly Food!

Background to our Butterfly Food Post:

We were able to visit the Butterfly Palace & Rainforest Adventure in Branson, Missouri a few years back.

It's a fun and relaxing place to stop in Branson if you're a nature lover like we are. We loved the Butterfly Palace since that they do have a variety of beautiful butterflies, and the fun thing is– you can actually feed the butterflies yourself!

Monarch on feeder in my hand

This photo is of me holding a real butterfly on my Nectar Feeder at the Butterfly Palace. Each visitor receives 1 complimentary Nectar Feeder, which they can show you how to gently hold to allow the butterflies to land and have a snack!

It gives the perfect photo opportunity as you can see, and of course is such a fun thing for kids and adults to get to do.

Butterfly Picture

I do recommend the Butterfly Palace if you're traveling to (or through) Branson this year. For 2020 Travel, keep in mind they may have modified hours so we would recommend calling ahead.

As of the date of this post, the Butterfly Palace is open. See more information and hours here!

Why are Butterflies Important?

Butterflies are some of the most beautiful pollinators in the world. Though they may seem delicate, they play a very important role in our ecosystem. They are pollinators as well as sources of food for many animals.

A female butterfly will release pheromones into the air to attract a male to her. They mate and then she will lay eggs on a host plant. The eggs hatch and the caterpillars (larvae) eat voraciously until they go through five instars to become a chrysalis.

Out of the chrysalis in about ten days, the adult butterfly emerges to pollinate. It has six legs and two antennae which are used in finding flowers to drink nectar from or laying eggs on host plants for next year's larvae.

There are almost seventeen hundred species of butterflies found in North America, and these beautiful insects play a vital part in our ecosystem. Let's look at some of the reasons they are so important.

Butterflies are important because they pollinate flowers which is essential to our food supply. Have you ever seen a monarch butterfly drink sweet nectar out of a flower? Their long tongues have special organs called “proboscis” which are used for drinking nectar from flowers. The pollen they collect on their bodies is then carried to other plants which helps flowers and vegetables produce new seeds. Butterflies also lay their eggs on the host plant which feeds next year's larvae. Native Americans used to rub these eggs all over their skin as a temporary dye for tattoos!

How often to Butterflies Eat?

Butterflies are day-flying insects which means they are active during the day. They typically rest in the heat of the sun so they keep their bodies warm. They will also sleep at night to avoid predators. They also hibernate during the winter .Butterflies eat every day, They actually “drink” more than they “eat” but if they can't find a nutrition source, they can go days without eating or drinking. Did you know that they have taste buds in their feet? They use their feet to tell wether a food is nutrition or poisonous. Caterpillars, on the other hand, are nocturnal so they feed at night and spend days hiding from predators. Tree sap can be a food source but it doesn't have all the nutrients that nectar has like amnio acids, nitrogen and salt.

MudPuddling: Just when you think that nature can't get any more beautiful, something like this happens! A group of butterflies will sometimes gather around mud puddles after rainstorms. These insects are gathering in order to drink from the liquid which contains salt and other nutrients similar to those found on Earth as well as protein-rich amino acids

Want to make sure your butterflies have what they need? Let's talk about making our own homemade butterfly food.

How to Make Your Own Butterfly Food!

Now is the fun part! After we came back from our trip and started sprucing up our back yard space, my husband mentioned making a butterfly garden in the corner of our yard. Of course that meant a little more research into butterflies and what is recommended for them to eat.

Monarch butterfly on feeder

I had some bird feeders from our recent project, our Bird Sanctuary. For a butterfly feeder, you just need a brightly colored tray type feeder or bird bath.

You can probably make your own if needed. It's pretty simple!

How to Mix Your Butterfly Food:

Butterfly nectar ingredients

To make the food, you will need the Orange Gatorade Powder, sold in a can. If you haven't used this before, it's usually located with the Gatorade products on the upper shelves in the grocery store. If you cannot find Orange Gatorade you can mix 4 parts water with 1 part sugar.

A little will go a long way! So find a small can like the one I have pictured above.

Orange Gatorade powder

Just one scoop is needed for this recipe- so you can also make the family some fresh Gatorade while you have it out. 🙂

Making Butterfly Nectar

Add to a clean pitcher. I know it's obvious it needs to be clean. Just take care not to use the old garden pitcher or watering can, even though this mixture is going outdoors.

Since we are making nectar, it's important not to use any container that may have dirt, rust, mold, or residue in it. Those things could be toxic to any butterflies that stop in to drink the nectar.

Butterfly Nectar

This Gatorade mix won't be as concentrated as the mixture you're used to drinking, so if you're dedicating this all to the butterfly feeder, labeling is a good idea.

Supplies to Have:

Butterfly Feeder

As you can see, I used a simple tray bird bath for my Butterfly Nectar.

The one I have is brightly colored. While it's not necessary to find a specific color, remember butterflies are attracted to flowers! So the more it looks like a flower, the easier it is for your butterflies to find their treat!

See some Butterfly Feeders Here:

Butterfly Feeder with Nectar

Next, you will need a small sponge, like the one I have pictured here. As with the pitcher, be sure to use a new sponge that doesn't have any possibility of having mold or grime in it.

I got the plastic sponge from the Dollar store, and would recommend just picking one up there. You can find them on Amazon but will probably pay a lot more.

Using this sponge is important because it allows a safe place for the butterflies to land and eat the nectar without drowning.

Again, you can see I used a brightly colored sponge! 🙂

Monarch on Feeder

More ideas to feed your butterflies:

You'll notice that butterflies LOVE to graze. So try putting out some mushy apples, peaches, mashed up bananas or oranges as special treats for these beautiful creatures.

Time to Eat!

I love the pictures I was able to capture of these gorgeous butterflies having a snack! It's hard to believe we have our own butterfly garden right in our back yard! While it's on a much smaller scale than the Butterfly Palace was, we still get to enjoy these majestic insects.

Do you know which types of butterflies are common in your area?

Here's a quick reference I picked up and saved from our tour of the Butterfly Palace. While types vary in each area of the country, I've had fun trying to spot a few common ones that have stopped in to visit!

Butterfly Chart

I hope you're able to use this post as some inspiration for your own home and garden. Let us know on here or on Facebook if you decide to make your own Butterfly Nectar!

Butterfly purple with stripes

Recipe:

Ingredients and Supplies:

  • 1 scoop Orange Gatorade Powder 
  • 2 Quarts fresh, clean water (can be tap water)
  • Absorbent material such as a sponge
  • Pieces of soft or rotten fruit such as bananas, grapes, watermelon, or oranges.
  • Small bird feeder with tray

Instructions:

  • Mix Gatorade Powder and Water well in large, clean pitcher.  
  • Saturate the absorbent material with enough of your Gatorade mix to soak it, but do not leave standing water around it. It should keep its shape.
  • Place rotten fruit around the sponge, but monitor your feeder for any unwanted pests like flies, bees, wasps, ants and other bugs.
  • Finally, Have your camera ready!

This homemade butterfly food recipe is what the Butterfly Palace in Branson uses but you can also use 4 parts water and 1 part sugar if you don't want to use gatorade.

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