In spring and through the fall we see butterflies on the flowers in gardens, yards, and roadsides. Have you ever noticed butterflies gathering around puddles or damp soil in the garden? Butterflies get most of the energy and moisture they need from plant nectar. Male butterflies need minerals, salt, and amino acids for reproduction. They can get these nutrients from moist soil, where water has evaporated leaving minerals near the surface.
Our gardens can provide the moisture and minerals butterflies need by including puddles or puddling stations. Making a puddler is an easy at-home project to make your garden more attractive and beneficial to butterflies, as well as other pollinators.
You can make a puddler with a large, shallow clay or plastic saucer. Sand is a good medium to hold moisture; you can use sand to fill the saucer close to the surface. Mixing in a small handful of compost or composted manure will add more of the important nutrients. Butterflies don’t land in open water so add just enough water for the sand to stay moist or form a shallow puddle in a low spot. You can also add small rocks for perching if you like.
Some butterflies eat fruit or fruit juices and adding some over-ripe fruit at your puddling station can make it nearly irresistible. Set a small saucer in the puddling station and put in a few slices of bananas, oranges or apples. No need to change these every day – the butterflies like it riper than we do!
This short video from the University of Georgia Extension will show you how to make this simple butterfly puddler.