Question Mark butterfly  feeding on rotting fruit  

Question Mark butterflies are regular customers at rotting fruit feeders as well as fruiting trees where excess fruit drops to the ground.



Feeding butterflies

In forests, there are fewer flowers, especially in summer and fall when the trees have leafed out. Therefore, various butterflies, including the Morning Cloak and the Question Mark, seek alternative sources of nutrients. They will feed on rotting fruit, sugar solutions, tree sap, animal dung and carrion. The easiest and perhaps the most palatable of these options is rotting fruit. Rotting fruit can ferment and it is possible that a butterfly could get drunk on this stuff.

  A stunning White Admiral butterfly is another woodland butterfly that obtains sugar from fruit and salt from animal dung. This feeder was designed for rotting fruit to feed fruit flies in order to attract hummingbirds. A number of different butterflies came instead.  


It is necessary to ensure that the fruit actually rots and not just dries out. Use large chunks of fruit equivalent to about quarter of an apple. Place the fruit in shade. The fruit will bring in other insects that you may not want, so place the feeder away from door entrances to your house. You will probably be successful if you use apple, but you can also use pear, banana or pineapple.

  The underside of the White Admiral is even more beautiful. If you can wipe your sweaty brow with your finger, you might be lucky enough to get the butterfly to walk onto your hand where it will feed on the salts in the sweat.  

You might find trees that drop lots of fruit onto the ground in the summer as a nuisance because you can smell the fruit as they rot. But, this will provide butterflies and many other animals with a source of food. Butterflies that you may not see on a regular basis can become quite abundant in your garden.

  Mourning cloak butterfly  
  A mourning cloak feeding on the ground from a mulberry.  

Red Admirals are woodland butterflies that also feed on fruit during the summer. It is somewhat surprising that the proboscis is strong enough to pierce the skin of serviceberries in order to obtain sugar.

  Red Admiral on serviceberry.  
  Serviceberry is one of the first shrubs in the garden to produce fruits. Shrubs and trees that produce fruit by mid-summer are important for woodland butterflies.