Butterfly Activity: The Virtues of Rotting Fruit!
Vol. 12 Issue 2, Summer 2007
By Nicole Hamilton
Attract butterflies to your garden by making a butterfly fruit cocktail. It is easy to do and a great use for over-ripe fruits. Bananas are the big favorite, so you could start with slicing up an over-ripe banana and putting it out on a plate, but if you have other fruit on hand, that will make the fruit cocktail ideal.
You can use any combination of fruits, but here is a quick recipe that will bring in a nice variety of butterflies, especially the Commas and Question Marks, Hackberry and Tawny Emperors, Red-Spotted Purples, Red Admirals, and others:
1 over-ripe banana, sliced lengthwise or in rings or mashed up
2–3 over-ripe strawberries, sliced or mashed
few slices of over-ripe cantaloupe melon
pieces of rotting peach, apple, or mango
slice or two of orange, lemon, or lime
Place the fruit slices into a shallow dish or plate that is no more than 1 inch deep and drizzle with pink Gatorade, just enough to make a slight pool in the bottom of the dish. Gatorade will provide minerals that male butterflies seek and will help keep the fruit cocktail moist in the sun. Put the fruit cocktail outside in a sunny location and await the butterflies. They often find the mixture in the late afternoon as they are returning to their nighttime roosts.
Remember, it is the mushy, rotting, very over-ripe fruit that butterflies like best. Replace the fruit if it dries out or becomes moldy. You can also whirl the fruit and Gatorade in a blender with some syrup and paint it onto a tree or other location where the butterflies will find it (but where you can also hose it off if needed).
As an alternative to rotten bananas, you can place bananas in the freezer until they are frozen. When you thaw them out, the skin will turn black, but the mushy banana inside will be a butterfly’s delight. If you don’t have any rotten fruit at home, you can ask your local supermarkets if they have any they are going to discard.
It may take some time, but be patient and you will be rewarded with colorful visitors!