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The Butterfly (and Moth) Cookbook

Collected by May Lattanzio

NO! We are not cooking butterflies and moths here!

The comments on my photograph of the Red-Spotted Purple Butterflies feeding on pears, led me to some interesting recipes for potent delectables.

Years ago in a National Geographic presentation on the Amazon, a lepidopterist fermented a nasty brew to lure rainforest lepidoptera in order to photograph them. He took great glee in announcing that the secret ingredient was urine…his!

Caveats: Butterflies and moths succumb easily to fungal infections, so clean utensils and surfaces well. A glass table in a sunny spot would be easy to clean. The Cockrell Butterfly House uses simple feeding stations consisting of a red plastic plate on a simple pedestal, with a sponge in the center and overripe fruit.

Secondly, you will get ants and yellow jackets.

From Victor Hitchings of NABA: “We mixed a banana mash with a generous helping of rum to bait traps in Nigeria in the early 90’s. That worked really well provided you leave it a day or three.” Note: We as photographers should not use traps, for obvious reasons.

From: http://www.dlia.org/atbi/methods/winter_moths.s...

Baiting or “sugaring” is a tried and true technique.

Baiting is an especially effective sampling method for winter moths. Baiting is most effective in temperate forests where the bait mimics tree wounds that occur naturally; dry pine and oak woods can be especially good. The technique works best when natural food resources are scarce.

Baiting is frustratingly unpredictable.

Bait concoctions vary from the simple to the complex.

Many experienced baiters swear by one ingredient or another like blackstrap molasses or some secret substance One fairly simple recipe includes the following: one can of beer (or apple cider), 1 1/2 cups sugar, 1/4 – 1/2 cup molasses, about four over-ripe bananas or equivalent in apples, peaches, pears, quinces, etc., a brewer’s yeast tablet (optional), and a spoonful of cornmeal (optional). Mix the ingredients with a blender or hand mixer, then allow to ferment in a warm slightly vented container for a few days. Do not store bait in a sealed glass container—it can explode from gas pressure. Good bait will smell strongly of alcohol.

Not surprisingly, fermenting fruits, such as spoiled watermelon, also draw moths, sometimes in staggering numbers.

Apply the bait to tree trunks around sunset.

Select trees with smooth bark or plates of smooth bark; pines, hickories, cherries, and birches are all good; corky or absorbent bark (like white oak) is best avoided.

Use a broad clean brush and apply bait about head height in a patch roughly 20-30 cm across.

Follow a trail, edge, or roadside, or bait areas with relatively little understory.

Vary the direction and wind exposure. In cool seasons bait sunny patches.

Sponges can be soaked in bait and hung from branch tips or even set on the ground (grasslands).

Submerge a length of rope in bait and then string it between two objects.

Baiting is slightly affected by moon phase; on bright nights, trees in the open may yield fewer moths.

In late fall, winter, and early spring, a warm day (over 65ºF) with a mild evening is best; high humidity, light rain or drizzle may help, especially in xeric habitats that have been dry for a period.

Most moths will arrive within the first two hours.

Both butterflies and moths that have been imbibing bait for a time tend to get intoxicated. Others are quick to fly off.

Approach the bait slowly and keep your flashlight beam off of the bait patch initially.

One rule is that once light has been directed on a moth, do not interrupt the beam.

Xylenines tend to drop to the ground (into leaf litter) and feign death when startled.

Bait attracts more than moths. bears, skunks, white-footed mice, and foxes are just a few of the species that may lick at a bait patch.

Baiting is also one of the best ways to encounter flying squirrels.

In winter, screech owls may hunt a bait site for moths and mice.

http://www.nsis.org/butterfly/butterfly-lures.html

There are butterflies that don’t feed on flower nectar or sap. Some feed on carrion and others feed on mud, probably dining on the waterway version of roadkill. Other lures include places for basking and, for those that do sip nectar, nectar feeders.

Fruit

Fermenting fruit: If you have fruit trees, try not picking the fruit up and see what happens.

Make a fruit mixture; spread it on fence posts, rocks, tree trunks, whatever is handy. This is called “sugaring” and will attract nectar feeders as well. Mix up some mashed fruit with a sugar (sugar, molasses, corn syrup, honey) and let it sit for a few hours, then put it out.

Peter D. Stiling’s Florida Butterflies and Other Insects offers this:

one pound sugar

one mashed, overripe banana (or other fruit)

one cup molasses or syrup

one cup fruit juice

Mix together, leave in the sun for an hour or two (no longer or it will dry up), and paint in the late afternoon.

He also notes soaking sponges in sugar solution to hang them from trees

Basking

Butterflies bask in the sun to raise their body temperatures so they can fly. Accommodate them by including some flat rocks in your garden.

A south slope is an ideal spot for a butterfly rock garden. Include flat stones and low-growing butterfly plants.

Puddling

Some butterflies sip moisture and nutrients from moist soil. You can provide a puddle by allowing water to stand in a depression in an open area in your yard or by placing sand in a wide shallow container and keeping it moist.

Nectar Feeders

Butterfly feeders, which hold nectar (and sometimes pieces of fruit), can be purchased. Make your own by placing a sponge, plastic pot scrubber, or other absorbent material in a saucer of nectar. The saucer should be placed amongst nectar plants, a few inches higher than the blooms. Small strips of red cloth will help attract butterflies.

Nectar is made by combining 4 parts water with 1 part white granulated sugar. Boil the solution until the sugar is dissolved and cool. Store in the refrigerator for up to a week.

Wash feeders thoroughly once or twice a week (more often in warmer weather) to prevent mold from forming.

If ants are attracted to your feeder, try coating their access route with petroleum jelly or mineral oil.

http://dnr.wi.gov/org/land/er/invertebrates/but...

The fact that the vast majority of moths are active only at night, remaining concealed by day, makes it necessary to employ a few special techniques to find and observe them. The main thing to keep in mind is that certain weather conditions are much more favorable for moth activity, with warm, humid, and overcast nights being the best. Little activity is generally seen on cool, clear nights, especially those with a bright full moon.

The simplest way to see moths requires nothing more than a good flashlight. Many species of Sphingidae (hawkmoths) and Noctuidae (owlet moths) may be observed as they obtain nectar from flowers, mainly at dusk and during the first hour or two after dark. Light-colored flowers having a sweet, noticeable odor such as fireweed, bouncing bet, phlox, blazing star, and evening primrose, are the most attractive.

“Sugaring”

Many of the Noctuidae are sap-feeders . Attract them by “sugaring”. Brown sugar dissolved in apple juice or beer is applied with a brush to tree trunks along a path at dusk. The underwing moths, with their brilliant red- or yellow-banded hindwings and forewings patterned like tree bark, are attracted to bait from early July into September. It is always exciting to see several of these large and striking moths busily sipping at a bait patch, their eyes glowing in the beam of the flashlight.

Light Sources

The attraction of moths to artificial light sources has been known for hundreds of years and is the major tool for detection and survey work. Simply checking lighted buildings or streetlights can result in seeing many species. Sodium lamps, used in streetlights do not attract moths well.

Field surveys are accomplished with portable light equipment. The Coleman gasoline lanterns used by pioneering lepidopterists have given way to batter-operated fluorescent “blacklights,” emitting ultraviolet light in the range most attractive to night-flying insects. A white cloth sheet is hung behind the light source, to intercept and provide a resting place for the moths that are attracted. The use of lights is the only way to locate certain moths not seen at bait or flowers. For example, the Cecropia moth and its giant silkmoth relatives do not feed as adults, having non-functional vestigial mouthparts, as do most Arctiidae (tiger moths) and Notodontidae (prominents).

The fact that the vast majority of moths are active only at night, remaining concealed by day, makes it necessary to employ a few special techniques to find and observe them. The main thing to keep in mind is that certain weather conditions are much more favorable for moth activity, with warm, humid, and overcast nights being the best. Little activity is generally seen on cool, clear nights, especially those with a bright full moon.

The simplest way to see moths requires nothing more than a good flashlight. Many species of Sphingidae (hawkmoths) and Noctuidae (owlet moths) may be observed as they obtain nectar from flowers, mainly at dusk and during the first hour or two after dark. Light-colored flowers having a sweet, noticeable odor such as fireweed, bouncing bet, phlox, blazing star, and evening primrose, are the most attractive.

http://earthcaretaker.com/index.html

Butterflies

You would be surprised to know how many butterfly species whisk by your garden already. The trick is to stop them long enough to get a look at and appreciate them. The way to do this for most species is to provide a sunny, sheltered open area with lots of colourful plants which provide nectar for the butterflies and foliage for their caterpillars to feed upon. Many butterflies like to sun themselves on a large rock or other bare surface or to sip moisture from damp soil. Quite a few species are attracted to rotting fruit, some to urine and faeces! Some species hibernate in crevices, cavities, wood piles, etc. Commercial butterfly hibernacula are even available! Look for the first butterflies of the year on warm days in the woods in February where Mourning Cloak, commas, Question Mark, tortoiseshells and Red Admiral can be seen sipping sap from tree wounds.

If you use insecticides liberally, you will never have breeding populations established. Remember, the caterpillars you may kill are immature butterflies and moths. (They, along with other insects, are also valuable food for attracting birds!)

This is a lovely PDF on Moths and Butterflies – http://www.naturalengland.org.uk/leisure/wildli...

This is an easy site to navigate for setting up a butterfly garden, which includes bait.

http://home.woh.rr.com/billkrisjohnson/Garden/B...

http://www.americaswetlandresources.com/wildlif... gives this butterfly bait recipe producing

one gallon of a dish that butterflies and moths find irresistible. It will give you hours of viewing pleasure. This recipe has been used with great success by our greatest local butterfly and moth expert, Vernon Brou of Abita Springs.

Supplies Required:

-one gallon jar with lid

-fruit (8-10 bananas, the riper the better; other fruits work well and can be used in various combinations – e.g., peaches, plums, cantaloupe, apples, etc.; do not use fibrous peals such as bananas and cantaloupes)

-2 cups white sugar

-2 cans of beer (for some reason, lite beer does not work well)

-water

Mixing steps:

1. Place 1 cup of sugar and half the fruit in a blender; fill with water, blend well, then pour into the gallon jar.

2. Repeat with the rest of the sugar and fruit.

3. Pour the 2 beers into the gallon jar.

4. Use water to make the mixture one full gallon.

5. Mix well with a spoon.

6. Place the lid on the jar loosely (if you tighten the lid, the mixture may cause the jar to break as it ferments).

This is the finished product. It can be stored at room temperature (you may wish to set it outside unless you love the smell) and it will work for weeks. To use, simply pour some bait in a shallow dish and place it where ever you wish. Good luck and have fun watching your butterflies and moths!

Denny Brooks sent me this from Rick Mikula’s book, The Family Butterfly Book. Denny does Monarch Field Surveys in Michigan.

Butterfly Mix

Unsulphured Molasses

Bananas

Beer

Sugar (White or Brown)

He says as the unsulphured molasses ferments, it will bring bees. He suggests a suet cage filled with rotting fruit.

Paul Breslin sent me the following: Put a pot on the stove, fill it with a couple of cans of beer. Boil and stir in molasses until it would not longer dissolve like simple syrup.

Pour in clean, boiled mason jar, drip on sponge or rag.

From the Care 2 Green Living site:

Butterfly Bait:

Ingredients:

1 pound sugar

1 or 2 cans stale beer

3 mashed overripe banana

1 cup of molasses or syrup

1 cup of fruit juice

1 shot of rum

Mix all ingredients well,paint or hang.

From The Butterfly Garden, by Matthew Tekulsky (Harvard Common Press, 1985)

Comments

  • May Lattanzio
    May Lattanzioabout 5 years ago

    I would love hearing from anyone using these recipes and seeing the results.

  • Enivea
    Eniveaalmost 5 years ago

    I am amazed at all these recipes. I could not put any out into my garden as the ants would soon find and devour it. However, in my only 2 year old garden, I have planted shrubs selected for their capacity to attract butterflies. Already it is paying off although I’ve yet to manage more than a few close images. As summer comes to a close and days become milder, I’m hoping for more activity of all insect life – beside the ants – they are a constant!