Artificial feeders for butterflies

Perhaps you are like me and raising an absurd number of butterflies - so many butterflies, that feeding them nectar from flowers is out of the question?

In the Kronforst lab, where I am doing my graduate work, we feed our adult butterflies Birds Choice Butterfly Nectar from fake flowers that we make from readily available lab supplies.

**At this point, I'd like to mention that you must teach your butterflies to eat from any artificial feeder. They often will not figure it out on their own! I will do another post on hand feeding and teaching butterflies to eat from artificial feeders soon.**

Monarch butterflies feeding from our fake flower set up.

Monarch butterflies feeding from our fake flower set up.

Making the flowers

1. Sealing

Seal the point of a P20 or P200 pipette tip. We use a Bunsen burner to melt the point, but I could imagine other ways to create a seal - maybe a hot glue gun? 

2. Petals

 Cut a length of colorful tape and fold the sticky sides together to create a non-adhesive sheet. Alternatively, use thin colorful plastic sheeting that is easy to cut through. Next using either scissors or a scrap booking flower shaped punch tool, cut out petals or punch out a flower. The punch will also need to be hole punched in the center, slid onto the pipette tip, and glued in place. If you cut out your petals with scissors, take a bit more tape, arrange three to four petals on the adhesive side and wrap around the open end of the pipette tip.

3. 1.5 ml tube flower holder

Pierce a small hole through the cap of your 1.5 ml tube - I often use old tweezers or small scissors to do this. Now slide the cap onto a length of wire with a diameter slightly wider than that of your tube's hole. Voila! Now you can hang your flowers inside your butterfly cages.

4. Filling the artificial flowers

We fill our flowers using a 5 or 10 ml syringe with a blunt end needle

Sponge and Cup Method

Another option is to pour nectar into the base of a small cup and place a sponge with wide holes in the cup. The butterflies can sit on the sponge, insert their proboscises into the holes, and drink to their hearts' content.

I don't prefer this method as it wastes nectar. Nectar tends to ferment and go bad in a couple days when not refrigerated. The fake flowers use far less nectar, and the butterflies tend to drink up most of the liquid in the flower before it spoils. But assuming you don't have a full scale butterfly operation, you might still prefer this less complicated option.

Butterflies feeding from a yellow sponge soaked in nectar inside a red plastic cup.

Butterflies feeding from a yellow sponge soaked in nectar inside a red plastic cup.