Butterflies are drawn to water, but only if they can wade and flit in just the shallowest of shallows. (Ever notice gatherings of butterflies on the puddles along a creek or stream?) They are also are drawn to a particular nutrient found in soils.
Here’s how to provide butterflies a butterfly spa that they love so that they flock to your garden, deck, or balcony:
Make a Butterfly Landing Pad
Recycle an old Frisbee. Add marbles to the bottom for weight and landing pads (or a flat stone, a brick, or something organic and heavy that you have handy).
Sink a broken cup into the ground or into a large pot of plants on your deck or balcony. Cut up a sponge to fit into the cup or stuff in a well-rinsed net shower scrubber. Keep the cup filled with water.
Fill an old pizza or jelly roll pan with water to provide a shallow puddle on a sunny day. Line the pan with a cotton tea towel or paper towels.
Make it “For Butterflies Only”
Another way to attract butterflies is to make a small butterfly spa using a large plate, an old baking dish, or a shallow ceramic bowl. Sink the dish into the ground (preferably in a flowerbed, which is attractive as well as convenient–no mowing around it) and fill it with sand, which has absorbed or contains the salts and nutrients butterflies love. Or just toss a shovelful of dirt into the container. Wet the sand or dirt thoroughly and make sure it stays constantly damp.
Make a Butterfly Buffet
A platform feeder meant for birds works nicely for giving butterflies a buffet of bananas, watermelon, or apples. Change the fruit every day or two to keep the display presentable, although the butterflies won’t mind and would probably prefer rotting material. Swallowtails, painted ladies, and fritillaries are the most likely to visit a fruit station such as this.
Adapted from Panty Hose, Hot Peppers, Tea Bags, and More–For the Garden, by Yankee Magazine (Rodale Press, 2006).