feeding new butterflies

This topic contains 9 replies, has 0 voices, and was last updated by  Jacqui 3 years, 2 months ago.

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  • #14103

    Gillian
    Participant

    Hi, my 12 year old and I are new to this butterfly game and we have a question. We had 6 butterflies hatch over the last 3 days, but as the weather is raining and coldish here and will be for the week, we are worried they will starve as they dont seem in a hurry to leave. We gave them watered down honey which they drank, but one got stuck into a blob of straight honey and then sat there like it was in a diabetic coma for a few hours, while the others wandered around! Is honey ok for them to eat? We have no flowers in our garden but will be planting a butterfly flower garden over the next few weeks so we are ready for next season.

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  • #26320

    Jacqui
    Keymaster

    Thanks for that, Anna. I am glad y ou’ve posted that here.

    #26319

    Anna
    Participant

    I have just had success feeding Red Admiral butterflies using Bush honey…2tsp to half a cup of water with a couple of drops of soya sauce added. I have used thin green pot scrubs cut to fit inside milk bottle tops, then spooned the mixture into them. I carefully picked up each admiral, and gently placed it onto the bottletop, and the second its feet touched the saturated potscrub, the tongue shot out and they started feeding furiously. Funnily enough before that I used a different honey, and it was more diluted, but they didn’t respond as well.
    (Before using the potscrub I soaked it for a bit in boiled water incase it had anything that may have been harmful in it…)

    #26307

    Anna
    Participant

    This info is great thanks…what a neat website!

    #23377

    Swansong
    Participant

    For the record Ive successfully fed butterflies for months through the winter on what I described I do with honey and water. There is much to be said about trying to replicate what its like outside. As the winter comes upon us and depending on whether you get frosts or not, this can be easier said than done. I found some rooms too hot and some too cold. Its largely a case of tailoring things to your climate and situation.

    Cheers
    Swansong

    #23376

    Charlotte
    Participant

    Some very good advice here Gillian for you to follow;-)

    I have found mashing up a bit of banana in a little bit of water and putting this on your finger and then getting the butterfly to climb on works for me, and oh what a lovely site to see when they do start to feed.
    Or you could try a tsp of raw sugar mixed in warm water, then dip your fingers in this and have the butterfly sit on your fingers.
    As Swansong has said the butterfly do taste through their feet.

    Hope that helps.
    Let us know how you get on.

    Cheers
    Char

    #23374

    Swansong
    Participant

    Natural environment is best, but hey, theres other legitimate reasons why you might want to "intervene". Certainly when youre new youre interested to see how things happen. It can be a neat experience to feed them : ).

    IMO if you are going to keep them for a week or more, and youre waiting for the right conditions to release them, and they are new, AND inside (for whatever reason) my experience is that they definitely do need a "starter". As Bernie has intimated, you can feed them for a very long time. I use various strengths of honey and water. In other words I saturate some white unscented handytowel in water, and put runny blobs of honey on it with a knife tip, here and there. You can either hang it up or lay it on something like a 2litre icecream container lid. They will generally dab at it with their proboscis and choose the strength they want themselves, as the honey "bleeds" into the water. Beware that it often needs fresh drops of water from time to time if its in a warm spot.

    I would'nt release a butterfly without giving it the opportunity to have that first feed, if Ive had it for more than 3 days. Much more so if theres no sources of nectar.

    It is good to watch their abdomen. If that gets too thin, they are likely to get weak and then you get other probs. As I said in the other post, you can try them out. They'll feed if they want to, BUT they can be coaxed too. Usually you can see, if you look side-on, a little of the proboscis and if youre careful you can unfurl it with something such as a wooden tooth pick, which you can slip in behind the "loop". I like to have a little solution on it so they immediately get the taste. They also taste through their feet.

    All this is relative. Relative to what you're wanting to do, how much you want to take on, and CERTAINLY, what pests and other things of suchlike, youre up against. FOr example, if I dont take my big pillars in and have the Chrysalides inside, Im likely to lose the lot to something that Ive never figured out.

    HTHs
    Cheers

    #23373

    Jacqui
    Keymaster

    #23372

    Bernie
    Participant

    Hi Gillian
    Jacqui is right in saying that they should be OK without food for quite a few days where you are.However,it can be quite fun to feed them and will certainly be no harm.What is more,there could be a future time where it may be vital to feed one and it is as well to know how to do it.
    Here in England,I have been feeding over a dozen,two or three times a week since last September.
    I put about 5 teaspoons of water in a wine glass and about half a teaspoon of honey.This is then placed in the microwave and warmed up to dissolve the honey.
    Whilst this is cooling to just warm ,I take small pieces of kitchen tissue and dunk them in the mixture and arrange them on a tray.
    Carefully ,pick up the butterfly and gently put it on the piece of tissue.If you are lucky,it will uncurl it's tongue but if not,using a pin,uncurl the tongue and place it on the tissue.If the butterfly is hungry ,it will feed.If it is not ,it won't.I then move on to the next butterfly but pop an empty beer glass over each one to prevent them flying away.Mine now uncurl their tongues as soon as I pick them up.Keep them in the dark,in a cool place(not a fridge) until the weather warms up.
    Good luck
    Bernie F.

    #23370

    Jacqui
    Keymaster

    They know best, Gillian. If they had emerged outdoors, they would find somewhere to stay still and "warm" until the weather fines up. It's important that you try and replicate the same temperature indoors, so that they don't get the idea that it's midsummer out of doors.

    I would keep them in a dark place in the cool until the weather fines up – that's telling them that it's "midwinter" outside, without them experiencing wind and rain. A clean carton/box in a darkened bedroom or washhouse is ideal.

    Some people do feed them – I choose not to – but let's hope that those people come in here and advise you. The nectar should be a mix of honey (or sugar) and water, rather like a sweet cup of tea, so that's about 1-2 teaspoons of sugar to a cup of water.

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