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