Everyone knows a garden full of the right flowers will bring in butterflies, and that’s certainly true. But some butterflies supplement their diet with fruit, and certain species feed almost exclusively from it. Adding a fruit feeder to your yard can help you attract butterflies, and provide a treat for fruit-loving birds as well.
I came across this simple fruit-feeding idea when I was visiting Costa Rica earlier this year. I loved the natural look of the set-up, and so did the local birds. I took the idea home with me, and created a fruit feeder station in the free-flight butterfly exhibit here in Florida where I work. The butterflies absolutely love it! To create the feeder, I used a piece of grapevine wood about 5 feet long. I left a few of the branching twigs on to serve as natural fruit holders. Then, I used heavy gauge copper wire to create hooks as shown, about 6 inches apart.
Cut fruit into pieces and hang them from the hooks. Good fruit choices include oranges, bananas (leave the skin on the back to help hold them in place), mangoes, watermelon, and papaya. And don’t worry if the fruit is overripe or past its prime – that’s actually the best way to attract butterflies! Common butterflies that enjoy fruit include Monarchs, Red Admirals, Mourning Cloaks, Red-Spotted Purples, Painted Ladies, Question Marks, and Commas. Learn more about using fruit to attract butterflies here.
If you give this a try, you’ll probably want to plan to remove the fruit at night (to avoid unwanted furry visitors like raccoons), and replace with fresh fruit in the morning. Of course, if your neighborhood includes fruit-eating birds like Baltimore Orioles, Cedar Waxwings, or Northern Mockingbirds, you may not have any fruit left to worry about! (See more fruit-eating birds here.) If you’re concerned about birds getting caught on the wire ends, cut your wire long enough that your hooks can bend back on themselves and be tucked out of the way. But really, birds deal with all sorts of thorns and prickers in the wild – they’re pretty good at avoiding them.