Have you made a butterfly puddle? Butterflies must be one of the most elusive insects for me to photograph in the garden especially this summer. The UK Butterfly count is still going on and each day I try put aside 15 minutes and go outside with a cuppa to watch for them. Weather permitting! I normally only see a couple of small whites however their visits are normally very fleeting and impossible to photograph. Last year my fluttering garden visitors were Painted Ladies, Red Admirals, Peacocks, Small and Large Whites and Small tortoiseshells. However this year I’m slightly concerned as I’ve hardly seen any of these visitors. I can only imagine that our bad weather earlier in the season has affected their numbers quite significantly.
Today I counted no butterflies in the garden. But I’ll still be sending in this zero sighting as these ones are just as important to the researchers.
We all know that butterflies need nectar to survive but they also require minerals, salts and some water. If you’ve ever been to a butterfly house you’ll know that it gets awfully hot and sticky in there. But did you notice that the longer you stay in there the more attractive you become to the butterflies. Consequently more and more of them will fly closer towards you? In fact it’s the salt from our sweat that attracts them. Likewise I was much amused by their keen interest in me at our local butterfly farm.
After having had that experience at Butterfly World, Edinburgh I decided to make a butterfly puddle in the garden. But there’s a caveat here for anyone in Scotland …don’t get excited by this as you’ll soon find out.
Have you made a Butterfly Puddle before?
- You need a large shallow bowl about 16 – 20 inches in diameter which you fill with sand.
- Then you add water to make the sand nice and moist (you must keep the sand damp at all times).
- Dig a hole so that the top of the bowl is flush with the soil (the water isn’t as fast to evaporate this way)
- Add about a tablespoonful of well composted manure/chicken manure/ mushroom compost/stale beer.
- Add a teaspoonful of salt. It encourages male butterflies as the salt is said to enhance their libido.
- Add a few stones and a few shells so that the butterflies can sunbathe.
- Lastly a few slices of chopped up banana left to ferment as the butterflies prefer it that way (other fruits like apple or pear also work).
Well truth be told…it was totally unsuccessful last year here in central Scotland. I ended up with wasps being attracted to the fermenting fruit rather than butterflies. Then there was our wet summer which made sure that the bowl was waterlogged most of the time. Now if you live in a warmer dryer climate don’t let this put you off. You might want to seriously consider making one of these puddles as they seem to be very successful in the USA. But alas not in my garden!
One of the leavesnbloom readers – Annetta Barker from California made some butterfly puddles. She kindly allowed me to place a few photos here so that everyone could see how creative you can be when making them.
Over on my Facebook page leavesnbloom photos Annetta says:
The stacking of rocks was my idea as a stand of some sort. I then took a small to medium size terracotta pot saucer. Then I layered down some sand and manure mix topped with small pebbles and then some larger rocks.
I know now that my mixture should have filled the saucer more – which I’m planning to do. Trial and error as they say …
Even so I have had a few visitors already at the puddle site. Will keep you informed of what transpires.
More Design Inspiration
Annetta also made a few more puddle designs that should give you some inspiration for creating your own:
Thanks very much Annetta for sharing your great designs. Likewise if anyone else has ever tried to make one of these butterfly puddles please let me know. I’ll share your story and pictures here on the blog.