Will Butterflies Visit Your Sugar Water Feeder?

Some butterflies will actually visit hummingbird feeders! Learn more about offering fruit and sugar water for butterflies.

Though we often think of butterflies as sweet nectar flower lovers, some butterfly species are actually known to visit food sources you might not expect—including hummingbird feeders. Should you put out sugar water for butterflies?

Psst—this is the only homemade hummingbird nectar recipe you need.

Do Butterflies Like Sugar Water?

Red-spotted purple butterfly at a sugar-water feederCourtesy Charlette Galster
Red-spotted purple butterfly at a sugar-water feeder

“Is it unusual for a butterfly to visit a sugar-water feeder?” asks Birds & Blooms reader Ellen Beck of Nevada City, California.

Experts Kenn and Kimberly Kaufman weigh in: “In general, butterflies are unlikely to visit such feeders. But exceptions include certain butterflies that are attracted to things besides flowers—such as viceroys, red-spotted purples, commas and question marks. These types of butterflies may come to feeders, especially if some sugar water was spilled on the outside.”

Psst—this is how to clean your hummingbird feeders.

Some adult butterflies actually skip the flowers and instead prefer to feed on rotting fruit, oozing sap from trees or even animal dung and carrion (decaying flesh on dead animals.)

In the Southwest, a type of skipper called the dull firetip visits sugar-water feeders regularly. In this case, if you already put out feeders for hummingbirds, you may also want to consider offering extra sugar water for butterflies.

Check out 10 interesting facts about hummingbird moths.

Fruits That Attract Butterflies

Great spangled fritillary butterfly visiting an orangeCourtesy Charlotte Meeks
Great spangled fritillary butterfly visiting an orange

Certain fruits, such as ripe oranges, peaches, pears, grapes and other sweet treats, may also attract butterflies, along with other important pollinators like bees and wasps.

Lots of common backyard birds may enjoy eating these fruits, too. House finches, downy woodpeckers, wrens, cardinals, robins and orioles are all fans of fresh foods from your kitchen or the produce stand. You can also attract birds with berry bushes.

Next, learn how to create a DIY butterfly puddler to help them during dry weather.

Molly Jasinski
Molly Jasinski is an editor, writer and social media manager for Birds & Blooms. She’s been with the magazine since 2019 and with Trusted Media Brands since 2012. She brings more than 10 years of editorial experience to Birds & Blooms and has a bachelor’s degree in print journalism. In her role, Molly works closely with bird experts Kenn and Kimberly Kaufman and gardening expert Melinda Myers, in addition to the Birds & Blooms freelance writers. Molly was featured in a May 2023 episode of The Thing With Feathers birdwatching podcast. She's a member of the nonprofit Friends of Wehr Nature Center in Franklin, Wisconsin, a popular location for birdwatching in southeastern Wisconsin. She goes out birding often and is still hoping to spot a tufted titmouse in the near future.