Garden attraction

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The butterfly bar I’ve set up in our garden a couple days ago has become a real attraction. I’ve been positively impressed by the variety of visiting species and by the number of individuals stepping by. Here’s a series of snaps about what’s happening just on our very own back-yard.

A huge drawback of setting up a feeding station are the wasps and bumblebees also being attracted. Unfortunately, on days when the butterfly bar is open our kids have to stay inside for safety purpose.

Multiple individuals of European Peacocks (Inachis io), Mourning Cloaks (Nymphalis antiopa) and Red Admirals (Vanessa atalanta) are continuously feeding outside. Yet missing is the Scarce Tortoiseshell (Nymphalis Xanthomelas) which used to be a frequent visitor during early spring when the bar was set up.

Setting up the butterfly bar

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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.

Ingredients
  • 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.

Setup
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.

Results

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)

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