Soft – Moth & Butterfly Feeders (Weekly Unplugged Project)

By , September 7, 2008 6:34 pm


The theme for this week’s Unplugged Project was soft.

I guess we could also have done this one last week for insect, but this week for our soft Unplugged Project, we made moth and butterfly feeders out of soft cotton balls and soft sponges.

I was inspired by our second visit this past summer to the Strong Museum of Play’s Butterfly Garden (in Rochester, NY).  By the way, if anyone lives near Rochester, NY, or is visiting the area, that museum is well worth a visit, and don’t miss the butterflies! (For photos, please see my post from our first visit in 2007).


Let’s start with the moths.  I found the instructions here:  How Stuff Works: Moth Feeder.

You need cotton balls, string, apple juice and sugar:

Measure 1/2 cup apple juice and pour it into a bowl:

Stir 1 tablespoon sugar into the apple juice until dissolved:

Next, soak the cotton balls in the mixture until saturated, then squeeze out to reduce drips.  My two year-old really enjoyed this step.  All the children were licking their fingers when done!

Tie the sugary cotton balls onto a string.  We tied several on each string.

Hang the strings near outside lights or in front of a window where a light will be on inside, anywhere that might attract moths at night.


For the butterfly feeder we used the leftover apple juice-sugar mixture from the moth project.  We also needed a kitchen sponge, and a plate or dish – preferably red since butterflies are supposed to be attracted to the color red.

The formula for attracting butterflies (or certain moths) seems to be quite varied.  Apparently sugar water works fine, but there are all kinds of other ingredients that can enhance the attraction.  I even read that human urine has been used successfully to attract them!   Generally though, they apparently like fermented bananas or other fruit, sugar water, brown sugar and rum.

We decided to get fancier than plain old sugar water, but we gave the urine idea a miss.

We didn’t have rotten banana on hand, but we did have some over ripe nectarines that I left out in the sun all day to hopefully ferment a bit:

We concocted our own formula of the leftover apple juice and sugar mixture, additional brown sugar, the nectarines, and even a bit of rum that I found in the pantry (although you could certainly leave that out, I think it probably just gives a more fermented odor to the blend).

Soak the sponge in the liquid mixture until saturated, then put it on the plate and add any rotten fruit:

Place the dish outside in a sunny spot. Try to pick someplace near flowers that butterflies enjoy, and put the plate a bit higher than the blooms if you can. We put ours on top of an empty birdbath in the middle of our rather neglected butterfly garden.


So, how did we do??

Well, we had one moth customer as of bedtime last night:


We hung three feeders up and (not surprisingly really) he was at the one near the brightest light. Keep that in mind if you try this.

The butterflies were more elusive.  We didn’t sit and watch all day, but none came while we were checking.  We’ll see what happens tomorrow.

(RESPONSE TO QUESTIONS IN COMMENTS: I expected the plate to attract lots of wasps, ants and other bugs, but not yet for some reason. I suspect that that might happen more readily in some “buggier” parts of the world. Once the ants do find it though, they’ll probably carry the whole thing off!)


A few links:

Bird and Other Wildlife Feeders

How to: The Butterfly and Moth Cookbook (cooking FOR them, not cooking them…)

Why are Moths Attracted to Light?

Moth or Butterfly?

The Children’s Garden (an old Unplug Your Kids post about gardening with children, includes information on creating a butterfly garden)


If you joined in the soft Unplugged Project this week, then please put a link to your post (preferably your actual post, rather than your blog) in Mr. Linky.  If you didn’t join us but want to know more about how to join in, then please read more here.


The theme for next week’s Unplugged Project will be:


Have fun!


22 Responses to “Soft – Moth & Butterfly Feeders (Weekly Unplugged Project)”

  1. Heather says:

    What great projects. I would never have thought about making one for a moth, but they can be equally as beautiful.

    Heathers last blog post..A Soft Landing….

  2. Meg says:

    I’m so excited about moth feeders. We feed hummingbirds, and sometimes have some insects who are interested in the sugar. But I’ve NEVER heard that you could feed the moths and butterflies! We took such a totally different approach to soft… :)

    Megs last blog post..Unplugged – Soft

  3. Allison says:

    Cool stuff! I really enjoyed this post, and I think my kids will too. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Anna says:

    Love this!!

    Annas last blog post..The Omnivore’s 100

  5. Nature Mama says:

    That is super cool :) I’ve never seen one made for moths before! Thanks for sharing!!

    Nature Mamas last blog post..Electricity ~ The One Wire Circuit

  6. shawna says:

    Ooh, I never knew there was a name for moths’ attraction to light. Very cool. I hope you get some butterflies along your way as well!

    shawnas last blog post..Unplugged #3: Soft

  7. Michelle says:

    The Moth feeder is cool. Did you find a lot of other bugs hanging around the feeders as well? I would think ants would have been all over the plate one especially.

  8. Expat Yelli says:

    Cool!!! Did you have any trouble with bees and or wasps though?

    Expat Yellis last blog post..Europe scares Americans…

  9. Love the idea of a butterfly feeder, but not the rotten fruit! I suspect we’d attract cockroaches more than butterflies. But the ones here are about the same size and fly… ewww!

    Julie K in Taiwans last blog post..Soft Sushi Toys

  10. […] 8, 2008 in Kids Crafts I’m posting our creation for the unplug your kids challenge of soft, early this week. I’ve been having daily headaches in the afternoons/evenings so I doubt […]

  11. Julie says:

    My son and I will definitely do this project! We have moths all over the place (I have had to rescue a Mothra relative from our bathroom almost ever day for the past week)


  12. Mom Unplugged says:

    Some of you are asking the great question about other bugs. Actually I expected ants and wasps to be on the plate, but they are none yet. Not sure why. If we lived somewhere really “buggy” and tropical I suppose we might attract more insects than we do here.

  13. Heather says:

    I’ve thought about doing this after visiting a butterfly exhibit at the Smithsonian. We will definitely try it now. Thanks for sharing!

    Heathers last blog post..Unplug Your Kids-Soft

  14. Karen B says:

    Interesting! I didn’t realize you could make a butterfly or moth feeder at home! The only man made feeders I’ve seen came with hatch-your-own kits, and I just assumed they had some kind of technical, hard to get stuff in them!

  15. Bobbie says:

    what a great idea.. I have never heard of such a thing.. you always have the best ideas!! we have lots of moths in Australia… it would be busy in no time :)

  16. Christie says:

    The creativity around here amazes me!

    Christies last blog post..Check out this craftiness (unplugged-soft)

  17. dayna says:

    Great project! We love the Strong Museum – maybe even planning another trip there this Nov!

    LittleA and I are missing the unplugged challenge – we will be back though :)

    daynas last blog post..Football Food Face-off Is Here!

  18. warillever says:

    So cool! We will try this later this week!

    Once it stops raining…

    warillevers last blog post..The Lamest Unplugged Post

  19. Hope we have time to try to the attract the moths — then we can photograph them!

    exploreacademys last blog post..Soft — Kids Unplugged

  20. […] we recently did soft, the theme for next week’s Unplugged Project will […]

  21. […] have fun, and think “outside the box” if you wish.  For example, the theme was once soft and we made moth feeders out of soft cotton balls.  Another time the theme was kitchen and we made […]

  22. […] have fun, and think “outside the box” if you wish. For example, the theme was once soft and we made moth feeders out of soft cotton balls. Another time the theme was kitchen and we made […]

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