Butterfly Food, eating habits, and favorite snacks

Caterpillars usually eat the host plants, while adult butterflies suck on nectar, watery fruits, and tree sap, drink from puddles, and sometimes feed on animal feces.

What Do Butterflies Eat

Butterflies do not have teeth, so they are restricted to a liquid diet. They have a proboscis, a long tongue that they use as a straw to digest food. This is why they suck on juicy foods, such as rotting fruit, to get the necessary nutrients and energy.

butterfly food
Butterfly food

Caterpillar Food

Caterpillars mostly eat plants. They consume large amounts of leaves, grass, and flowers. Caterpillars often eat such large amounts of food that they will double in size in one day. Some leaves that caterpillars enjoy come from oak, cherry, and willow trees.

Most caterpillars are herbivores, but some are omnivores. Omnivorous caterpillars feed on animal carcasses, red ants, and aphids.

Adult Butterfly Food

Not only do butterflies suck on flower nectar, but they also suck on vegetable and fruit nectar. Common vegetables that have nectar-producing blossoms include zucchini, squash, and pumpkin. Common fruits that have nectar-producing blooms are apples, peaches, and pears.

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Some butterflies eat tree sap. Tree sap is high in sugar and contains nitrogen, salt, and amino acids. While tree sap is an excellent food source for butterflies, it is difficult for them to access it. They must rely on other insects, animals, or birds to break the tree bark. Common trees that attract butterflies include oak, maple, and ash.

What is the best food to attract butterflies?

The most natural way to feed butterflies at home is to plant flowers that attract butterflies (like milkweed). Other flowers you can grow in your butterfly garden are listed below:

  • Black-eyed Susan
  • Cosmos
  • Daisy
  • Hollyhock
  • Marigold
  • Sunflower
  • Yarrow

There are many other different ways to feed butterflies at home. Whether you have butterflies in a net cage or want to see butterflies out your window, remember that butterflies enjoy sugary and watery foods. Different butterflies prefer different foods, so if you find that one option isn’t attracting butterflies, try another.

Butterfly Feeders

You can create a butterfly feeder to attract and feed butterflies. Tape pieces of string to a paper plate and hang the plate on a tree branch. Place pieces of overripe fruit on the plate. Some options include rotting watermelons, oranges, bananas, or nectarines.

Hummingbird feeders can also be used as butterfly feeders. You will need liquid food sources if you use a hummingbird feeder to feed butterflies. One liquid form you can make to feed butterflies is to mix 1/2 teaspoon of sugar with 1 cup of a sports drink.

Sports drinks like Gatorade may contain dyes and preservatives that harm butterflies, so you should avoid those. Search for substitutes for a sports drink at your grocery store. Substitutes could be Pedialyte or Emergen “C” powder.


Butterflies enjoy eating fruit juice. They drink the juices from sweet and watery fruits such as strawberries, watermelon, and grapefruit, so tossing those around your yard is helpful. Fruit juice is beneficial to butterflies because it is sugary and watery. The sugar gives butterflies energy, and the water hydrates butterflies.

To feed butterflies with fruit, choose juicy and ripe fruits. Cut the fruit in half or cut it into small pieces. Change out the fruit daily, and don’t leave the fruit outside overnight. Fruit left outside during the night will likely attract critters such as raccoons. Fruit will also attract other insects, but you can lay the fruit in a shallow dish with water to make it difficult for insects like ants to get to the fruit.

Sugar Water

Sugar water is a solution made of part sugar and parts water. It resembles butterfly nectar, making it a great option for feeding butterflies.

Make sugar water for butterflies by mixing 3 teaspoons of sugar with 1 cup of water. White cane sugar offers the best nourishment for butterflies. Mix the sugar into the water until it dissolves.

You can dip cotton balls in the sugar solution and place the cotton balls on a plate outside for the butterflies to suck on. Another option is to soak a sponge in the sugar water. This sponge can also be placed on a plate or a bowl outside.

Mud puddles

Butterflies also drink from muddy puddles or garden puddler. Mud is made up of salts, protein, nitrogen, and amino acids. These nutrients keep butterflies healthy and help male butterflies obtain minerals essential for mating.

You can easily make a butterfly puddler and offer them an additional food source. Use any shallow dish, and fill it with sand, water, salt, and a few stones to help butterflies land. Soon enough, you’ll see many of them around the puddler, sucking water.

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