I purchased a butterfly feeder to help attract more butterflies to my garden. I already make my own hummingbird nectar. Can I use this recipe to feed butterflies?
—Niceta Field, Ray, Michigan
Tom: While hummingbird nectar typically is a 4-to-1 ratio of water to sugar, butterfly nectar is a bit weaker. Try a 10 percent sugar-water solution (about 1 part sugar to 10 parts water), and add a pinch of multivitamins, if you'd like, from a children's vitamin capsule. Or, use Gatorade with a little sugar added—about 1/2 teaspoon per cup. One word of advice, though. As with hummingbird feeders, you'll want to have some sort of trap to keep ants from taking over the sweet liquid.
Another thing to keep in mind is that butterflies are attracted to flowers by the amount of ultraviolet reflection they emit. Since some colors emit better than others, certain feeders may not emit the correct wavelengths to attract butterflies. Purple, lavender, orange and red usually work well, but you'll just have to try them. In addition to feeders, there are a few other simple ways to attract butterflies. You can put bananas or fermented fruit in your feeder to attract mourning cloaks, anglewings or tortoiseshells. Also, don't forget the flowers. Because of the differences in UV reflections, some flowers are better than others. One to try is lavender or purple butterfly bush (Buddleia), which should attract fritillaries and swallowtails.