Use That Overripe Fruit to Attract Butterflies
Did you forget about that slice of watermelon sitting in the back of the fridge? You’ve been ignoring it because throwing away food makes you feel guilty, and you’re hoping that the refrigerator fairies will carry it away.
However, that dumpsterish odor is making this approach more and more difficult.
Good news! You can take your overripe fruit and put it to an environmentally beneficial use. That’s because many species of butterflies, including Monarchs, will feed on fruit that is past its prime.
We discovered this recently when we found butterflies feeding on oranges that had been left out for the Baltimore Orioles for a few too many days. Orioles do like oranges, but they prefer fresh.
The butterflies we saw were Mourning Cloaks and Commas. Neither are rare or among the more beautiful of the Lepidoptera, but nor are they often seen in our garden. These days I am pleased to see any butterfly.
The host plants for Comma caterpillars are all members of the elm and nettle families, according to Butterflies and Moths of North America (BAMONA).
There are many Elm trees in the neighborhood, though they are mostly either Siberian Elm (Ulmus pumila) or hybrids – the American Elm (Ulmus americana) having become very rare. Apparently the non-native Elms can still serve as hosts for the Mourning Cloaks.
Hosts for the Comma include Willows, Cottonwoods, and Hackberries. There’s a huge Cottonwood (Populus deltoides) across the alley from us, a Western Hackberry (Celtis occidentalus) in the front parkway, and a huge Weeping Willow (Salix babylonica) across the street.
Commas are found only in North America, while the range of Mourning Cloaks extends into the temperate parts of Eurasia.
If you are stumped by a butterfly, moth, or caterpillar ID in North America, you can submit a snapshot to BAMONA and they will get back to you with a positive identification. You do need to set up a free account, but all the IDs go into a database that helps to monitor population trends. Is that a great resource or what?
In addition to oranges, butterflies are fond of apples, cantaloupe, and watermelon. The fruit needs to be sliced open so that there is easy access to the juices. For more information on attracting butterflies with fruit, click on this link.
Seen many butterflies in your garden so far this year?