Meanwhile at the Butterfly Bar

After a long and hot period the time has come to set up the butterfly bar again. Lots of flowers in nature have ended blooming while others simply weathered due to the lack of rain. It’s time to invite some visitors for a “drink”.

Trying to figure out the best mixture for attracting butterflies I’m now testing two new recipes. Early spring, I already had pretty good results after setting up the butterfly bar. Back then, I used a mixture which I obtained from the Facebook group Butterflies and moths of Finland.

I’ve now placed two new mixtures into the garden, one based on red wine and another on beer. Please note at this stage I’m still experimenting.

The General’s Red

  • Cheap red wine
  • Dark syrup
  • Yeast
  • Salt

Mix the ingredients, take an even amount of wine and syrup. Add some salt. I used sea salt as I hope this would provide an additional lure to species generally soaking minerals. Add some yeast (the mixture will be fine also without yeast, but I try to add more flavor to the drink). Last, add something allowing butterflies to land on your drink. I cut a sponge into stripes which I placed in a small glass vessel with the mixture (see photos).

Foaming Freddy

  • Cheap lager beer
  • Dark syrup
  • Yeast
  • Salt

Mix the ingredients, take an even amount of beer and syrup. As with The General’s Red, add some salt to the mixture. Then, add yeast which plays an important role in this drink. The mixture needs to ferment before becoming really attractive to butterflies. Both the smell but also the alcohol will attract visitors. Add something allowing butterflies to land on. For this drink I used an old wipe which provides extra surface spreading the smell (see photos)

The General’s Red should attract Butterflies right away whereas Foaming Freddy needs some time, a couple days perhaps, to become really attractive. Place the jar with the mixture on a sunny spot in your garden..

I got Red Admirals (Vanessa atalanta) visiting both drinks on the next day after opening the bar (the wine-based mixture seems to work better so far). My goal is to get a Moarning Cloak (Nymphalis antiopa) visiting our garden. Depending on the habitat you’re living in you can even expect species such as the Purple Emperor (Apatura iris) or the Poplar Admiral (Limenitis populi) to come feed on your setup. Unfortunately, in my case there’s rather small chances for that to happen.

The bait has been placed. I’ll be back with a post on the top results soon.

Setting up the butterfly bar


Flowers are not the only option for attracting butterflies to your garden. Another trick is setting up a butterfly bar. Here’s a recipe and some tips on how to get started.

  • Cheap red wine
  • Brown sugar

You’ll also need a jar (e.g. a yoghurt glass), some string and a sponge. Depending on your imagination, you’ll perhaps need some other stuff as well.

Butterfly bar in garden to attract butterflies

Butterfly bar in garden to attract butterflies

Start by creating the mixture. Take some of the red wine and add brown sugar as much as the wine can take. You may heat up the wine in a microwave oven or on a plate so the sugar dissolves easier. Note: Make sure the alcohol does not evaporate since it’s a feast for butterflies providing them with lots of energy.

Feel free to add syrup or honey to the mixture (I got my results with plain brown sugar though). Adding vinegar will help you to get rid of flies if you’re annoyed by them visiting your bar.

Cut the sponge into small stripes (see photo). Place the stripes in the jar filled with the mixture. Use the string to place the jar hanging on a hook or e.g. branch on a tree in your garden. Personally, I’m using a spoon once daily to fresh-up the mixture and make sure the sponge stripes are properly soaked in the mixture.

Make sure to place the jar on a hot sunny spot in your garden (or why not balcony). Add some red wine every couple days to make sure the jar is full until its limit. That’s all. Have fun waiting for visitors.


It took a moment to attract the first individuals. But once the word spreads (or probably more the odour), we ended up having some buzz during our happy hour (see photos).

I wasn’t aware there’s this many Commas (Polygonia c-album) around. And getting a Scarce Tortoiseshell (Nymphalis xanthomelas) directly into our garden was a nice surprise, as well. Let’s see who’ll step by next.

Garden visitors 2013

As a quick look back to the previous butterfly season, this post is wrapping up the sightings made straight in our garden during summer 2013.

We didn’t see too much of an effort to attract butterflies that summer. With my wife being pregnant and our twin boys soon to be born, we had other priorities. The flowers I seeded in late spring didn’t do too well either and probably were not the most lucrative nectar source for insects.

Luckily, we managed to get some visitors though. The highlight, showing up in our garden by coincidence on a rainy day (looking for shelter instead of food), was a Map (Araschnia levana). This was the first sighting I ever made of that species, and I was happy to get a close look because the individual was resting.

The only “working” flower in our garden was a Dense Blazing Star (Liatris spicata). This flower, known to attract many butterflies and moths, didn’t let us down. Blossoming late summer, it served the Small Tortoiseshell (Aglais urticae), Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta) and many Silver Y’s (Autographa gamma).

All in all, we only counted 4 different species in our garden that summer 2013. Time to rise the bar and try out some proper feeding stations, also known as butterfly bars.

I take season 2014 as a challenge, and try to come up with a strategy to attract butterflies right into our garden. And the camera will be ready.

Did you know…

The Map is a butterfly known for seasonal polymorphism. Typically flying in two generations every year, these generations look different from each other. The summer generation features plain black and white  (see photo above) whereas the spring generation additionally carries orange on its wings.

Source: Wikipedia (January 9, 2014)

Related photos

The Butterfly Garden project

Many people feed birds in their garden during winter time. Give it a shot, and do the same with butterflies in the summer.

Assuming you have a spot with some direct sunshine you can try attracting butterflies through a series of preparations. I’m going to experiment a bit on my own, trying to set up the ultimate butterfly attraction.

Obviously, an important factor for success is the location. If your garden is downtown it will be more difficult compared to living on the countryside (where lots of butterflies will fly by your garden anyway). We got our own small backyard close enough to nature to take the challenge.

This section, the butterfly garden, is about attracting as many butterflies and different species to visit our garden as possible. Specially selected flowers, feeding stations and food plants will hopefully generate results.

I can’t make promises, but the coming season will show how lucky I get.

Give it a try…

Try visiting your local garden centre on a sunny day. Assuming they keep flowers outside you can watch if any of the flowers around seem to attract butterflies better than others (see photo below).

Source: The Butterfly Playbook

Related photos