Q: I have the traditional flowers that butterflies like in my garden and thought perhaps I would start adding ripened fruit and sugar water. When is the right time to do this?
— Karen Cores, Ravenna
A: Carol Sutek, a master gardener from Plain Township who specializes in butterfly gardening, said fall butterflies are attracted to the rotting fruit in orchards. Putting rotting fruit out in late summer and fall mimics that food source.
She makes a butterfly mash from a half-can of beer, 2 to 4 ounces of dark molasses, a handful of brown sugar and some overripe fruit, such as peaches, bananas or apples. Puree the ingredients in a blender, and then store the mixture in a glass jar for about a month to allow it to ferment. Put the lid on the jar loosely so ants can’t get in but the jar won’t explode. You can keep adding more overripe fruit to the mixture if you like.
Starting in late July, put ¼ cup or so of the mixture out on a dish for the butterflies. Because the mixture attracts ants, she recommends locating it away from the house. She also replaces hers every day because the raccoons eat it at night.
Earlier in the summer, you can put out chunks of watermelon or an orange cut in half to feed the butterflies, Sutek said. Put the fruit close to flowers.
Have a question about home maintenance, decorating or gardening? Akron Beacon Journal home writer Mary Beth Breckenridge will find answers for the queries that are chosen to appear in the paper. To submit a question, call her at 330-996-3756, or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Be sure to include your full name, your town and your phone number or email address.