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How to Make a Butterfly Feeder

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How to Make a Butterfly Feeder


Here is a simple and fun little project to work on with the kids for Spring.  The last few weeks we have been raising caterpillars and learning about life cycles and insects and bugs.  My children have been having so much fun with this little science lesson and we decided to wrap up the lesson by making butterfly feeders for the yard. Our caterpillars have finally emerged as butterflies and we are ready to set them free tomorrow so this feeder project was our attempt to convince the butterflies to stay and hang out in our yard this Spring.

My hope is to have the butterfly feeder under the window of each child’s bedroom and I am hoping they can peer out the window and occasionally catch a glimpse of a butterfly.   We are getting ready to let the butterflies free from our butterfly garden and hopefully they stick around and enjoy the little home we created.

I am not sure if this will actually work and help attract butterflies to the yard but it was a simple craft and the kid’s had fun making it and we just used things we already had on hand anyway. So if nothing else it certainly stimulated their little imaginations and they learned quite a bit in the process.

tutorial to make a butterfly feeder

One note I should make is that many butterflies like to feed on rotting fruit.  You often see plates hanging in yards as feeders with slices of melon or oranges.  We have a squirrel issue, a neighbor’s cat issue (that likes to use our yard as a litter box) and we currently do not have an ant issue and I want to keep it that way.  So I did have those things in mind when I created our feeder.  I think a flat plate with fruit might create issues so I am hoping this style of feeder will be less appealing to squirrels, cats and ants.

So here is what you need to create a butterfly feeder:

  • jar or plastic container of your choice
  • String, twine or thin rope
  • hot glue
  • sponge
  • sugar and water for nectar solution

I used a mason jar for our feeder but I know not everyone is as comfortable with glass outdoors so a plastic container also works!  An empty peanut butter jar would be fantastic for this project.

To make this feeder you simply use the rope to let the container hang from a branch or a stake in the yard, fill the jar with nectar and add a sponge which will allow the butterfly to drink the nectar without having it spill all over the yard below.  Butterflies drink with their feet so they just need to land near the jar and rest on the underside.

butterfly feeder

I used some kitchen twine and tied it around the top of the jar and wrapped it several times tying firmly with a knot at the end.

Next cut two pieces of twine- the size will depend on how long you want this to hang.  I wanted a fairly long cord to hang from a tree branch so I cut mine at 48 inches.  If you want a short cord to hang from a lawn stake or to hang right below a branch, you might try 30 inches.

how to feed butterflies

One end of your cut string should be tied tightly to the twine you already tied on your jar.  Take the other end and pull it across the jar to the opposite side and again tie a knot.

Repeat the process on the other side of the jar.  You want to end up with strings attached on 4 equal sides around the jar- so 12 o’clock, 6 o’clock, 3 o’clock and 9 o’clock.

Now you should be able to flip the jar over and the top becomes the bottom and the bottom the top. I trimmed any loose strings from the ends to tidy up the jar.

mason jar butterfly feeder

Set the jar aside and start on the lid.  You want a small hole on the lid- I made a Sharpie mark and used a drill to drill a hole in the lid.  This hole needs to be large enough to pull a small sponge through but small enough so water isn’t spilling out everywhere.  If you don’t have a drill, a hammer and nail would work to create the hole.

Take your sponge and cut or tear off a small strip.  Feed that through the hole- add the metal ring and test your seal by adding water to the jar, place the lid on and turn upside down.  If water drips out, you need a larger strip of sponge.  If water does not drip out, it is perfect and you can trim the sponge down to about 1 inch tall on the inside of the jar and about 1/2 inch poking through on the outside.  Empty the water from the jar.

how to feed butterflies

If your strings are not perfectly even on all sides, you might want to tie a knot a few inches down from the top of the string.  This will allow a little loop to put around a tree branch and will also allow the jar to hang straight and not at an angle.

butterfly feeder DIY

Now comes the fun part!  I hung the jar from the kitchen cupboard and let the kid’s embellish the jars.  We used hot glue to adhere butterflies (from the Dollar Store) and faux flowers (from Michael’s) to the jar.  I also added a dab of glue under each line of string to just keep the string in place so the jar is not lopsided.

Once your jar is finished, mix up the nectar solution by adding 3 teaspoons of sugar to a cup of water.  Wait for the sugar to dissolve and place in your jar.

Voila!  All done!  Now you can go outside and hang this where you like in your yard.  Ideally you want to find a spot where you have herbs or flowers that butterflies might already be attracted too (find a list here).

We are redoing our fence and backyard this Spring so our current feeder location isn’t ideal but I placed it on a fragrant, blossoming tree branch with a lavender plant located under the tree.  The tree gets full sun during the day.

I hope your kiddos enjoy this as much as mine did.

Butterfly feeder tutorial

Here is the butterfly garden I mentioned above- this one comes with caterpillars and the net and you can watch the caterpillars grow, move into a chrysalis and finally emerge as butterflies.

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Butterfly Garden 

And here are a few other articles you might enjoy:

How to Create a Butterfly garden

How to Attract Butterflies to Your Yard

Butterfly Treats

How to Make Butterfly Treats