What do Butterflies like to Eat?
Butterflies are welcome visitors in any garden. They help to pollinate plants and look beautiful to boot. If you’re keen to create your own butterfly garden, you need to know just what these colourful insects like to eat.
Butterflies eat (or drink) through their proboscis – a tube that works a bit like a straw. But they actually taste using their feet! Here are a few of their favourite foods:
The butterfly’s primary source of food is nectar. It gets nectar from plants and flowers. Butterflies prefer to visit flowers that are placed in a sunny but sheltered spot. If you’re planting your garden with butterflies in mind, try to include plants that flower throughout the season. That way you can provide a reliable supply of food from spring to early autumn.
A few nectar-rich plants you could consider for your garden include:
Verbena – This is a tall plant with lots of purple flowers on wiry stems.
Hebe – This is a reliable shrub all year round, with flowers that attract butterflies in the summer.
Perennial Wallflower – This plant produces pretty purple flowers from spring until autumn.
Buddleia – Known as the “butterfly bush”, buddleia comes in a number of colours and flowers in July and August.
Marjoram – This is a perennial herb that can grow to 80cm tall. White, pink or purple flowers grow from June to September.
Butterflies love a sweet treat. And in the autumn months, a sugary boost can help to keep them fit and healthy. If you want to provide your butterflies with an autumnal feast, leave out an overripe banana. Alternatively, if you have fruit trees in your garden, leave fallen fruit on the ground. Butterflies seem to have a particular taste for pears, plums and apples.
Butterflies are often sleepy when they first wake from their cocoons or from hibernation in the spring. If you come across a butterfly struggling to get going, you can prepare a boiled then cooled mix of sugar and water. Use a brightly coloured sponge to soak up the solution. A butterfly will take sips from it and get the boost it needs to take flight.
The glucose in nectar and fruit give butterflies their energy. But butterflies also require other nutrients. That’s why you may sometimes see them crowded around a muddy puddle. By sipping from the puddle they take in minerals and salts from the soil, which are thought to be important for reproduction.
By including a few of these food sources in your garden, you can attract butterflies for the whole of the season, making your garden into a festival of colour and life.
- Nikki Boxwild