Butterflies and Sugar Water: The Complete Guide

Butterflies And Sugar Water Make Quite the Combo

We all know the expression of drawing something, “Like flies to honey,” but another way you could word it would be, “Like butterflies to sugar water.” They don’t so much, “Eat,” it as they do drink it. If you’ve ever been curious what it is they like so much about sugar water, if it attracts them to a location, or how you can make your own butterfly feeder, then read on for answers to all these questions and more!

What Do Butterflies Like About Sugar?

Butterflies, “Drink,” their meals via a tool of sorts on their mouth called a proboscis. It is like a very long straw they can flex and it results in an all-liquid diet. They use their proboscis to drink nectar from flowers or the sweet liquid out of items like pieces of fruit sitting-out. A big ingredient of these fruits and nectar is of course sugar–they are full of it. Due to a butterfly diet being purely liquid-based and that liquid needing to contain a good degree of sugar, it is not so much they, “Like,” sugar as they need it to survive!

Does Sugar Water Truly Attract Butterflies?

Sugar water without a doubt is appealing to butterflies. They may need some assistance to actually be able to, “See,” where it is though. Butterflies have evolved to be aware that bright and colorful flowers mean access to delicious nectar and if you’ve ever been to a, “Butterly House,” or similar location you would have seen richly colored fruit out on plates. Cut-up pieces of watermelon, apples, oranges, and the like have that vibrant and splashy color that says, “Sweet liquid here!”

Just having some sugar water sitting-out will not necessarily be a good way to attract butterflies as it is having the things that signify that sweet water like richly multicolored flowers, fruit, or other ways to indicate sugar water can be found. This deserves further exploration with how you can make your own homemade butterfly feeder!

How Do You Create a Homemade Butterfly Feeder?

As was said above, just setting-out a little saucer of sugar water is not advisable when it comes to trying to attract butterflies to drink it. If you want to make an easy makeshift feeder simply making a sugar water concoction (generally anywhere from 4 parts water to 1 part sugar to 9 parts water and 1 part sugar depending on how concentrated you want it to be) and putting it on a very brightly-colored plate you leave out can work. However, a slightly more advanced project such as using a small jar (like for baby food) can really do the trick to attract a whole bunch of butterflies.

The, “Jar Method,” as we will call it involves taking a small baby food jar and a sugar water mixture you’ve made. You puncture a little hole in the lid (like with a nail). After making the hole you insert a bit of sponge inside so that the sugar water you’ll be putting in doesn’t all drip out so much as it soaks the sponge and makes it wet with the sugar water. Now, you need to be sure and put bright colors upon the jar that resemble that of flowers.

Possibly gluing some construction paper or using vivid permanent makers are recommended. Once it is decorated it is time to fill the jar with the sugar water and proceed to hang the jar upside down via string, rope, or whatever works to tie around the jar and have it hanging. After that, you leave the jar out hanging and wait for the butterflies to come and sample the sugar water from it! There is a little extra effort involved in this method with the baby food jar, but the final result of all the butterflies you’ll get eagerly slurping-up the sugar water makes it totally worth it!

Do Monarch Butterflies Drink Sugar Water?

Monarch butterflies are favorites of many people, with their beautiful colors often catching our attention. However, many are aware that Monarch butterflies are also poisonous thanks to the fact that as larvae they exclusively eat milkweed. That raises the question, do Monarch butterflies in fact drink sugar water? Well, despite in their infancy only munching on milkweed, once they reach adulthood and are butterflies, the Monarch does indeed drink nectar and sugar water.

The milkweed the Monarch eats before making a cocoon and becoming a butterfly allows it to have the nasty taste that wards off predators, but once an adult it does not have to keep-up a diet of milkweed or anything to keep that gross taste if anything attempts to eat it. Once it has reached the butterfly stage a Monarch can enjoy sugar water just as other butterflies do. Therefore, you can look forward to seeing Monarch butterflies hanging-out with all the butterflies at your homemade butterfly feeder.

What Else Might Sugar Water Attract?

Sugar Water has a tendency to attract more than just butterflies. Two other creatures that it might easily draw the attention of are hummingbirds and wasps. Hummingbirds also love to drink nectar just like butterflies out of flowers, and you’ve probably witnessed hummingbird feeders having a population of the birds fluttering around them before. Well, those have a slightly more concentrated mixture of sugar and water, but if you’ve got a feeder for butterflies (like the kind that will be discussed above) it may draw a curious hummingbird or two–which is perfectly fine! The bigger issue is arguably wasps.

Wasps love sugar water and in fact, many homemade traps for catching and killing wasps involve using sugar water as bait! Now, you don’t want to kill any butterflies with your feeder, so you may just have to put up with some wasps landing on it now-and-then. If you are outside when you see a wasp land there you can always try to (gently) shoo it away. Don’t ever go after it with a bug-spray while it is near the sugar water as some poison could accidentally get there too!

Butterflies and Sugar Water Make for a, “Sweet,” Time!

Now that you know what it is butterflies love so much about sugar water and how to attract them with this delicious drink, you’re ready to set-up your own homemade butterfly feeder near the window or a porch. All that’s left after that is relaxing in a comfy chair and enjoying all the gorgeous butterflies you’ll see!



Steve Foster

Mad about bugs and wanting to publish as many articles as I can to help educate people about these amazing beautiful creatures! For more info check out my about page https://schoolofbugs.com/about-steve-foster/

Recent Posts