Updated February 2022
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Buying guide for best butterfly feeders

Are you always in search of new flowers to plant in your garden to attract brightly colored butterflies? Watching these beautiful insects flutter around is a highlight for most gardeners, but sometimes gardens need a little boost to attract butterflies. That's where a butterfly feeder comes in.

Similar to the way bird and hummingbird feeders are designed to attract feathered visitors, butterfly feeders are structured to accommodate butterflies and hold the nectar, fruit, and other foods that are staples of their diet. The combination of a well-made butterfly feeder and the right food is likely to bring these visitors coming back for more.

Most butterfly feeders are designed to hang from a tree or attach to a post. Standard models have ports, a fruit compartment, a bowl, or a combination of these to attract butterflies to feed, and many have special components to keep out bees, ants, and other unwanted critters. 

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Key considerations

Why use a butterfly feeder?

Who doesn’t love to look at butterflies? The beauty of these colorful flying insects is undoubtedly the most common reason people love to attract them to their property. However, their aesthetic appeal isn’t the only reason to love having them visit your yard. Butterflies are also pollinators, which is vital to plant reproduction. Furthermore, some species of butterflies eat pests such as aphids that can be harmful to garden plants.

In addition to diets that include organic materials, tree sap, and extremely ripe or rotting fruit, most butterflies drink nectar from flowers. But many people don’t have these items lying around their property, and even if they do have flower gardens, not all butterflies are attracted to every type of bloom. Butterfly feeders are like little feeding stations where butterflies can gather and graze. Even if you don’t grow flowers, you can attract these lovely insects to your little piece of the world.

What goes in a butterfly feeder?

All butterfly feeders are designed to hold nectar because this sweet substance does a good job of attracting many butterfly varieties. You can get nectar in premixed liquid or powder form or make your own at home with sugar and water.

Many butterfly feeders also have ample space or a special compartment for fruit. Fortunately, many butterflies aren’t particularly finicky when it comes to the types of fruit they prefer, but melons, bananas, strawberries, apples, oranges, and peaches are some of their favorites. Remember that butterflies are most attracted to fruit that is overly ripe or even rotten.

Types of butterfly feeders

As you shop for a butterfly feeder, you’ll find several styles that suit different décor, gardens, and needs. 

Hanging feeders with ports: These are the most popular and affordable butterfly feeders. They’re usually made of plastic and feature designs that are very similar to hummingbird feeders, with nectar compartments and feeding ports. Many models also have small dishes for pieces of fruit for the winged insects to feed on. Also similar to hummingbird feeders, these units have built-in hooks for hanging.

Decorative feeders: Although these feeders can be a bit pricier than plastic models with ports, they’re also the most eye-catching. They come with wide, flat glass bowls to hold fruit and nectar and are situated on metal hardware in the form of hanging chains or metal stakes.

Butterfly feeding kits: This type of butterfly feeder isn’t made to be put in your yard to attract the insects but instead to provide an educational experience for children. The kits include mesh habitats and food to care for caterpillars and butterflies. Some kits even come with live caterpillars or the option to get them once the kids have set up their butterfly habitat.

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Did you know?
A group of butterflies is referred to as a swarm or kaleidoscope.

Butterfly feeder features

Each butterfly feeder is made up of several parts that are crafted to hold the units and for feeding butterflies once they arrive.

Chain, hook, and stake: Most butterfly feeders are secured by hanging or via a stake in the ground. Decorative feeders with glass bowls can be found in models with chains or stakes, while most butterfly feeders with ports are attached to a metal rod with a hook on the top for hanging. Butterfly feeders with stakes can be placed anywhere in your yard or garden where there is deep soil. If you choose a hanging model, you can place it on a tree or on a decorative garden or landscape pole. 

Bowl: Butterfly feeders with decorative or artsy designs have a shallow bowl for holding nectar and fruit. Glass is the most popular material for these small vessels.

Ports: Some butterfly feeders have ports instead of open bowls. These small holes are located on the top portion of a butterfly feeder and are designed so butterflies can suck out the nectar underneath. Some feeders with ports have replaceable wicks that mimic flower parts and encourage butterflies to feed.

Nectar compartment: Hanging butterfly feeders with ports have a compartment where the nectar is stored. The compartment is covered with a top that houses ports and fruit dishes.

Fruit dishes: In addition to ports, many butterfly feeders that have a covered nectar compartment also have small, built-in dishes for placing pieces of fruit. Like ports, there are typically several fruit dishes on a feeder.

Feeding cup and dropper: These come in butterfly kits and provide ways for kids to feed caterpillars and butterflies.

"It’s hard to believe that pretty butterflies enjoy indulging in rotting fruit, but they do. If luring them to your feeder with fruit that’s on the putrid side doesn’t appeal to you, don’t worry. Very ripe fruit will tempt them, too."

Butterfly feeder prices

The most practical, well-made butterfly feeders fall into a relatively small price range, approximately $18 to $50.

Inexpensive: The popular hanging style with ports is the most affordable, with models costing between $18 and $24. Some options in this price category have a small moat to keep out ants.

Mid-range: In the neighborhood of $24 to $34, some decorative feeders are available, as well as butterfly-feeding kits for kids.

Expensive: On the higher end of the price spectrum, between $34 and $50, are elaborate bowls made of glass designed to be held by a metal chain or a stake. Many also sport embellishments to add to their decorative appeal.


  • Deter ants with petroleum jelly. If ants intrude on your butterfly feeder, rub a bit of petroleum jelly on the stake, hook, or chain. This will put a barrier between the sweet nectar and these unwanted guests.
  • Change the nectar in your feeder once a week. However, if temperatures are higher than 85°F, you’ll need to change it more often to keep it fresh, about once every two to three days.
  • Change the fruit in your feeder every few days. If you place fruit on your butterfly feeder, you’ll need to change it more often. Although butterflies eat rotten fruit, it’s a good idea to replace it if it starts to smell, turn black, or attract a lot of flies.
  • Clean the feeder about every two weeks. Give your butterfly feeder a thorough cleaning about every two weeks, or more often if it tends to get dirty quickly. Pay close attention to the ports, and remove any built-up debris, food, or mold. If you choose a dishwasher-safe feeder, simply pop it in your machine for quick cleaning.
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Butterflies have a tiny straw-like mouthpiece called a proboscis. This little tube is for reaching into flowers to suck out the nectar, so butterflies can also use their proboscis to suck the nectar from butterfly feeder ports or bowls.


Q. How do I make homemade butterfly nectar?
It’s quite easy to make your own butterfly nectar at home. Simply add a cup of sugar to four cups of water in a pot. Cook the mixture until it comes to a boil, stirring it until the sugar dissolves. Once your homemade butterfly nectar has cooled to room temperature, place it in your butterfly feeder. To keep the remaining nectar fresh, store it in the refrigerator.

Q. Why can’t I just use a regular dish to feed butterflies?
You can, but butterflies are more likely to hover around a feeder that is designed to attract them, keep out pests, and contain the foods they like best. Most standard dishes or bowls are too deep and don’t have enough perching space for butterflies to land while they feed. Plus, if you place the dish on the ground, it can be hidden in the greenery and difficult to see. Hanging feeders with ports are made with butterflies in mind. Additionally, bowl-style feeders are shallow and have splayed edges for perching. And whether feeders are made to be hung from a tree or attached to a stake, they can be placed at eye level, which makes them easy to see and enjoy.

Q. Should I put my butterfly feeder in an area that’s primarily shady or sunny?
Butterflies are sun-loving insects, in part because they’re cold-blooded and thrive on the sun’s warmth. For this reason, you will attract more of these winged beauties when you set up your feeder in an area that gets a lot of bright sunshine throughout the day, especially from midmorning to afternoon when they’re most active.

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