Red-spotted Purple on banana

Red-spotted Purple dining on banana goo

Question Mark on pear

This Question Mark has found a pear on the ground. If you have fruit trees, leaving some fruit to fall will also feed butterflies.

Butterfly Feeder Report From New Jersey

In their book, How to Spot Butterflies, authors Pat and Clay Sutton state that "quite a few butterflies and moths have odd preferences and are attracted to feces, urine, sap, and rotten fruit." While this may seem a stark contrast to the visual beauty of butterflies, the Suttons have had great success in exploiting this feeding behavior by using a homemade butterfly feeder filled with watermelon, gooey bananas or other fruit that is past its prime.

The butterfly feeder in their southern New Jersey garden is often filled with "banana goo" made from bananas that have been peeled, frozen, then defrosted. Once defrosted, the bananas become soft and watery. Pat notes the fruit in the feeder needs to be gooey in order to attract a lot of butterflies. After a few hot days, the goo may need to be moistened with some fruit juice to keep it from drying out.

Red-spotted Purple, Red Admiral, Question Mark, Eastern Comma, Mourning Cloak, Common Wood Nymph, Little Wood-Satyr, Appalachian Brown, Hackberry Emperor, and Tawny Emperor butterflies have all visited the Sutton's feeder to dine on goo.Tawny and Hackberry Emperors at feeder Even though Pat and Clay have an extensive butterfly/hummingbird garden, they don't often see these aforementioned butterflies in their garden and have concluded that including a butterfly feeder in their garden greatly enhances their local habitat for butterflies.

Butterfly feeders certainly attract local butterflies down from the trees to a central viewing area but feeders may also give a glimpse of the unusual. The rarest butterfly that has been attracted to the feeder in Suttons' Cape May County garden is a Gray Comma (seen on July 15, 1999). This butterfly was more than 100 miles out of habitat and most likely more than 250 miles away from its permanent range.

Once the temperatures in the spring start to hover in the mid-50s for extended periods, Pat places the feeder outdoors to attract over wintering species such as Mourning Cloaks and Question Marks. Red-spotted Purple and Tawny EmperorThe number of early season of butterflies is small but increases as the weather warms up. The Suttons leave their feeder outside until fall temperatures become too cold for butterflies.

Other feeder visitors that are fun to watch include: Ruby-throated Hummingbirds which feed on fruit flies that hover near the fruit and a variety of moths that come at night. By shining a flashlight on the feeder at night, the moths' eyes will reflect a variety of colors.

Pat offers the following insights from her experiences with butterfly feeders: