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"Catering" to Behaviors and Feeding Butterflies

Category: Xeriscaping, Grow Lawnless, Butterfly and Habitat Gardens | Posted: Sat Aug 23, 2008 8:19 pm

Butterfly Feeding and "Puddling"
article written 8/23/08 -apologies for watermarking on photos...

Photo: Butterfly on composting wet leaf and debris area after heavy rains.

Male butterflies enjoy the ritual of 'puddling' and "mud puddling." It's a behavior that gets them in the mood for mating.

I had just begun to observe this type of butterfly behavior this spring and summer. and at first i couldn't figure out why so many butterflies seemed to be hanging out right on the ground, very intent on doing whatever they were doing and i had no idea what that might be. They let me photograph them up close, they weren't planning on moving.

I eventually looked up butterfly behavior and found out what the ritual was about.

I've had them "puddling" right on top of damp compost or yard debris left to compost, even in the dogs' areas where their wastes might be, and on wet leafy piles. i don't rake leaves and there is a constant sourch of organic materials in the garden.

These guys are puddling in yard debris and mud area near the dogs' area.

As i understand it, the males congregate in rain and mud puddles, they derive minerals from mud and debris that apparently increases the sex drive and encourages breeding. Mud Puddle male enhancement for butterflies, i'll bet.

The one thing i have noticed about butterfly behavior - they're trusting.Besides ladybugs, there are one of the very few insects that will let you get close. i've gotten close enough to touch their wings and they allowed it. and lots photographs - they go about their business being butterflies. incredible photo ops - flying gracefully then landing, collecting nectar, puddling with their posse and just sitting around on the ground.

Butterflies also like rain water puddles. I have a Rain Garden and i'm planning a bog that allows them to puddle and gather on the butterfly attracting plants and shrubs. the garden's design naturally created, in effect, a large mud or water puddling playground in certain spots dug out deeper than others. There are flowers and decorative grasses, as well, to protect them from predators and pollution, and to lay eggs upon.

Males form their cliques and gather in shallow wet areas, like those formed on paths, sidewalks and driveways . Butterfly puddling areas can be made easily. One way is burying a plastic or rust-proof metal shallow container or weatherproof 4" planter up to the rim, filling it with pea gravel or untreated sandbox sand, and then pour in liquids.These liquids can serve as food. Flat beer, koolade or other sweet drinks, sugar water or plain water. Over-ripe fruit that you haven't turned into healthy smoothies, left to sit for a few days and pretty squishy and funky smelling, can be thrown in. But i don't do that on the ground in fear of attracting bees, ants and other critters instead.

In my opinion, butterfly puddle containers should lie flat on the ground or just an inch or two higher than the ground (careful to place those sitting a little over the ground so that you don't trip over them while wandering your garden). and as gross as it might sound - the gathering or puddling i've seen where my dogs leave their surprise packages makes me think that the stuff is not only good to fertilize your shrubs, but also helps with your butterfly gardening and creating these puddles. i use that type of fertilizer on flowering shrubs when picking up after them - the amazing doubling or tripling of the size of bloom was clearly evident. It's free fertilizer, but i did one of the v-8 things upside my head when i realized i was pooper-scooping and discarding what not only what the plants love, but beneficial insects as well. but that's another article...

i will be designing some unique and decorative butterfly puddlers and feeders, whereby the butterflies (maybe frogs, too) will gather for water or puddling and also with an attractant color or flower shape that holds pieces of over-ripened fruit. Bananas, melons, strawberries - letting them get really mushy, then adding to the feeding/puddling areas of my landscape.

The trusting nature of the butterflies will allow for hours of photographic opportunities between the plants and the feeding areas. And yes, you can throw manure of any type into the puddling area - a little bit is fine. Some folks (fishermen, don't discard those yucky parts after you clean fish,throw them in the freezer to keep for this purpose). Take some out and defrost, then leave somewhere like a garage or where bugs can't get at them and let them get kinda aged and smelly. cut into tiny pieces, and add this to your puddling container.

Butterflies will be attracted to any shallow standing water and wet edges of the woods or ponds - but i see them very frequently on compost and waste in groups of 4 or more. when puddling, they seem to just be hanging out eating/drinking and i have seen them hang out in one place for hours.

I believe that you add a little salt - a pinch, since that mineral seems to be what gets the males in a romantic mood and ready to reproduce. I'm a big fan of epsom salts and i wonder whether that's safe for this use- seems safe for us to ingest it, so a little bit might not harm. and it would do good for the rest of the landscape, But i don't really know for sure.

The puddling containers can be as simple or elaborate as you wish. the easiest is just use a shallow pottery pot or bowl, "plant" the bowl into the ground, fill with gravel, chemical free sandbox sand, add water just to make them very damp with a thin later of water over it, but not full of too much water. If adding fruit or other treats, you can add more water if some is displaced.

You can also create the containers and lay them here and there in nooks in your garden. it can be part of your wildlife habitat or wildflower planting areas. Just let mother nature fill up the containers when it rains if you don't have time to wander around adding water.

i will be setting up the very simple puddling containers and decorating around them with pea gravel or river rock, perhaps some flat broken but not sharp pieces of terracotta pots or tiles. then add my river glass and sea shell collection for them to hang out on - butterflies love basking in the sun! Another behavior that lasts long enough to take as many photos as you like if you don't startle them.

Having puddling containers helps to keep many butterflies in your garden. If they can find a source of food and water, safe havens for their behaviors and cycles, many butterfies will take up residence or return to it. Butterflies seem to be very loyal to the best digs in town.

Another idea for a puddling dish can be the larger pottery bottom dishes of the inexpensive terra cotta planters. there are shallow pottery bowls easy to find at flea markets, and in garden centers for bonsai planting. If you live in an area that freezes hard for the winter, clean out these puddling containers and store until early spring so that standing water doesn't ice over and break the pottery dishes.
Enjoy Your Butterfly Garden, Mary

Last edited: Sat Aug 23, 2008 8:30 pm

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