Spring and early summer are butterfly-watching seasons. Butterflies are beautiful to watch, and they are pollinators essential for food and flower propagation. There are more than 140 species of butterflies in California. Monarchs, swallowtails and skippers are frequent visitors in our area. Unlike bees, butterflies do not make honey or eat pollen. They are nectar sippers who spread pollen. You can persuade these colorful beauties to sip your own homemade nectar by making a butterfly feeder to put in your garden.

Here is what you need to make the feeder:

  • A section of Schedule 40 PVC pipe for the feeder support. A four-foot section should be long enough to drive into the soil for stability while tall enough to provide a feeding platform.
  • A saw to cut the pipe to the desired length.
  • A cap to fit the top of the pipe.
  • A plastic or acrylic plate. These are readily available at your local Dollar Store.
  • Strong non toxic glue to attach the plate to the pipe cap and to glue optional decor to the plate.
  • Silk or plastic flowers, or glass pebbles, to glue onto the acrylic plate, if desired.
  • A cellulose sponge.
  • A rubber mallet to drive the feeder support pipe into the ground.

MAKING THE BUTTERFLY FEEDER

First, pick a good spot in the garden to place your feeder. Butterflies like to shelter in hedges and other flowering plants. They are attracted to bright colors of nearby blooms, so select a location that butterflies will like to visit. Once you have chosen your location, it’s time to start construction. The next step is to cut the PVC pipe to the length you desire. Then, decorate the acrylic plate by gluing artificial flowers or optional materials onto it. Glue the pipe cap to the bottom of the acrylic plate. When the glue has dried, you are ready to return to the spot you chose for the feeder. Use the mallet to secure the pipe deeply enough in the ground to be a stable support for the plate. Simply slide the plate and pipe cap onto the support pipe.

MAKING BUTTERFLY NECTAR

Now that you have invited the butterflies to lunch, it is time to start cooking! Butterfly nectar is a simple mixture of 9 parts water to 1 part sugar. Here is a recipe for a larger batch.

For example, if you use 2 1/4 cups water, you would add 1/4 cup of sugar. Put the sugar water in a pot and stir over low heat until the sugar has dissolved. Don’t be tempted to add more sugar to the mixture because too much sugar will cause the butterflies to become dehydrated. You don’t need to add food coloring to the nectar. When the mixture has cooled, you can store the nectar in a bottle or container in the refrigerator until you are ready to refill the feeder. The final step is to take the sponge and your home-made nectar out to your feeding station. Place the sponge in the center of the plate and pour enough nectar on the sponge to saturate it. Save the rest of the nectar for another feeding. Note: If ants are a problem, you can coat the bottom of the plate with Vaseline Petroleum Jelly to keep them away from the nectar.

You and your children can craft a feeder that will be fun to make and will coax butterflies to linger longer as they flutter by!