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Attract beautiful butterflies to your outdoor area with our easy-to-make fruit feeder.
Ideal for observing butterflies, this feeder will help you enjoy these enchanting insects even if you don't have a big garden or the time or resources to grow butterfly-friendly plants.
This feeder is designed to draw in butterflies for observation and photography using overripe fruit. It is suitable even for small gardens, patios or balconies.
The best way to help butterflies is to grow butterfly-friendly plants that will provide nectar to adults and food to caterpillars. Check out our article on how to attract butterflies to your garden for advice.
You will need:
1. Cut six lengths of wool, each 2.75 metres long. Gather them and fold in half.
2. Push the folded end through the key ring to create a loop and pull the loose ends through.
3. Separate into six strands (each strand will include two pieces of wool).
4. Measure 30 centimetres from the ring and tie a knot into each strand.
5. Below these knots, separate the wool into 12 strands, then bring together strands which are next to each other, leaving the outer strands until last.
6. Measure 20 centimetres below these knots and tie a knot in the two pieces of wool now paired together. Do this for each paired strand of wool (six knots in total).
7. Check the width of the plate at its widest point, measure this length below the second knot and tie all strands together in one big knot.
8. Place the plate in the wool hanger so that the final big knot is below the middle of the plate and the strands are spaced out around the edge. Hang in a sunny spot out of the wind.
9. Add some overripe fruit - banana works well. Now watch and wait.
You may need to be patient. If you don't recognise the species you see, Butterfly Conservation's online tool can help you identify a butterfly. We've also included photographs of the most common UK garden butterflies below.
Did you know that butterflies taste with their feet? Having taste receptors in their feet helps them find food such as overripe fruit. It also helps female butterflies find a plant their caterpillars can eat, which makes a good spot to lay their eggs.
To maximise your chances of butterflies landing on your feeder, put it in a spot that is sheltered from the wind. Butterflies tend not to fly if it's wet or too windy, so check the weather forecast.
Museum scientist Katy Potts, who works on the Brilliant Butterflies project, suggests hanging the feeder in a sunny place. She says, 'Picking a nice warm day will give you the best chance of a number of butterflies being out on the wing as they prefer the warmer weather.'
Provide sliced overripe fruit like oranges, bananas, berries, pineapple, melon, pears and plums.
Katy adds, 'Mashed banana works really well. You can also try mixing banana with a little bit of water to make a paste - it allows them to feed a little easier using their tongue-like mouthpart, called a proboscis. Oranges and watermelon are good options too.'
Butterflies are attracted to bright colours, so a pink, purple, white, orange or red plate may help.
Butterflies need water as well as food, so add fresh, clean water nearby. You could include a small saucer on your feeder to hold some water, with stones for the butterflies to rest on while drinking.
The main season for butterflies is April to July, however the feeder will likely be used in autumn too - food is scarcer then and some common garden species can be seen virtually all year.
You can attract more butterflies to your outdoor space by planting a flower or bush that they love. Buddleia, common lilac (Syringa vulgaris) and English lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) are all good choices. Even a small garden in a built-up area can support lots of different butterflies with the right plants. Butterfly Conservation has more tips on gardening for butterflies.
Butterflies are not the only insects who like overripe fruit. The insect feeder may also attract wasps and other pollinators such as hoverflies. While wasps have a bad reputation due to their sting, they play an important part in our ecosystem by preying on flies and spiders to feed to their young.
If your fruit feeder is attracting more wasps than you're comfortable with, try moving it to a different spot or put it out at a different time of year.
Here are nine of the most common butterflies in UK gardens:
Every year, Butterfly Conservation organises the Big Butterfly Count to monitor how butterflies are faring and assess the health of our environment.
The Big Butterfly Count takes place in July and August. Find out how to take part.
Did you know that butterflies are near-sighted? They can see up to about 3.5 metres away, but after that things get blurry. Butterflies can also see a range of ultraviolet colours which are invisible to the human eye. They use these colours to identify each other and look for potential mates.
... or that it helped you learn something new. Now we're wondering if you can help us.
Every year, more people are reading our articles to learn about the challenges facing the natural world. Our future depends on nature, but we are not doing enough to protect our life support system.
British wildlife is under threat. The animals and plants that make our island unique are facing a fight to survive. Hedgehog habitats are disappearing, porpoises are choking on plastic and ancient woodlands are being paved over.
But if we don't look after nature, nature can't look after us. We must act on scientific evidence, we must act together, and we must act now.
Despite the mounting pressures, hope is not lost. Museum scientists are working hard to understand and fight against the threats facing British wildlife.
For many, the Museum is a place that inspires learning, gives purpose and provides hope. People tell us they 'still get shivers walking through the front door', and thank us for inspiring the next generation of scientists.
To reverse the damage we've done and protect the future, we need the knowledge that comes from scientific discovery. Understanding and protecting life on our planet is the greatest scientific challenge of our age. And you can help.
We are a charity and we rely on your support. No matter the size, every gift to the Museum is critical to our 300 scientists' work in understanding and protecting the natural world.
From as little as £2, you can help us to find new ways to protect nature. Thank you.