Butterfly Puddler: All you need to know

Butterfly puddlers and muddy spots have always been attracting butterflies, as these insects use additional minerals they get from mud to improve their sperm.

What is a Butterfly Puddler?

Butterflies need minerals and salts to improve their sperm and breeding outcomes, so they often congregate around mud puddles. Lepidopterists then figured out you could make a puddler at home. In its essence, a butterfly puddler is a shallow dish filled with mud, water, salt, sand, and stones.

How to Make a Butterfly Puddler at Home?

butterfly puddler
butterfly puddler

If you like making butterfly garden additions, such as the butterfly house or the butterfly feeder, you’ll enjoy making the butterfly puddling station.

You can use any shallow dish, at least 12 to 18 inches (30 to 45 cm) wide. Reuse an old bird bath if you have one. Fill the dish with soil and/or sand just a bit below the brim. If you can, use sand from the beach, as it’s rich in minerals and salts. Then pour water to get the soil and sand moist.

Optional — add a bit of manure or compost to the dish and some overripe fruit like bananas or oranges.

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Now add a pinch of salt to your butterfly puddling stone to help the insects obtain enough nutrients. Finally, place some larger stones inside to make space for butterflies to rest and drink. Remember, they can’t land on open water, so they need something to stand on.

Where is the best place to put a butterfly Puddler?

Place the dish in your flower garden, in a sunny area filled with butterfly-friendly flowers. Ensure the butterflies can stay there undisturbed, so pick a peaceful spot in your garden.

Features of a Butterfly Puddler

Keep in mind that a butterfly puddler needs to have some basic features to attract butterflies. If you make one your own, you need to add mud, water, salt, and stones.

If you decide to purchase a ceramic butterfly puddler, ensure it has enough space for butterflies and is weather-resistant. Note you’ll still have to add the basics, as it doesn’t come with sand, stones, or salts.

Both handmade and purchased butterfly watering stations can add a beautiful accent to your garden and also attract hummingbirds.

Butterfly Feeding Habits

butterfly puddler
Butterfly puddler

Many butterfly species lay eggs on host plants, which the caterpillars then use to feed and collect energy for the next life stage — chrysalis. Milkweed is a common host plant for various species, but some caterpillars may feed on cabbage, nettle, grass, and in some cases, each other.

On the other hand, adult butterflies may eat overripe fruit, milkweed flowers, nectar, and tree sap. Some species, such as the Purple emperor, feed on feces and rotten animals. Yet one feeding habit remains present regardless of what’s usually on the menu — puddling.

Why do Butterflies Visit Puddles?

While most of their nutrition comes from flower nectar, that food is primarily rich in sugars. It lacks essential minerals and salts male butterflies need for improved reproduction. Males utilize those salts and minerals (mostly sodium chloride and nitrogen-rich solutions) to enrich their sperm and improve their reproduction outcomes. This is why male butterflies will often visit mud puddles in a behavior called “puddling.”

Where do Butterflies Puddle?

Butterflies will gather around any puddler they believe can provide them enough nutrients — be it natural, purchased, or DIY-ed. There’s likely mud if there’s open water, so you’ll probably see the butterflies around a lake or near the river.

On the other hand, if you offer them a puddler in your pollinator garden, they’ll come to it quickly. They’re also more likely to visit during the heat of the day, which is why you should ensure they have enough water to cool off.

Which Butterfly Species Use a Puddler?

Almost any butterfly species will use a puddler if it’s around. Still, some of the most common kinds you’ll see around are:

  • Monarch butterfly
  • Various swallowtails
  • Sulphurs
  • Whites

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