One way to make your garden more hospitable for butterflies is to provide a puddler. Many butterflies, especially members of the swallowtail family and sulphur butterflies, gather at wet spots and puddles to sip water, along with extracting important salt and minerals found in mud and sand. It is often the male butterfly seen puddling, and frequently they puddle in groups.
What is a butterfly puddler?
A butterfly puddler is a shallow bowl where butterflies can gather to get these elements. The bowl should be no deeper than 2 or 3 inches with sloped sides and filled with sand, compost, manure or even better, a mud mix of these materials to provide the minerals butterflies need. The bowl should be filled to the top with mud and wetted so water just barely covers the mix. Butterflies cannot land on open water, so there is no need to have a deep puddle; they can gather enough moisture just from damp mud. You can also place small stones in the mud mixture to provide a place for them to perch.
Food and Water Station
Butterflies also benefit from bowls of overripe, fragrant fruits such as bananas, oranges or apples, where they can get additional nutrients. Combine a puddler and a fruit bowl, and you have a one-stop feeding station for butterflies.
How to make a butterfly puddler
A single bag of premixed concrete is all you need to create the butterfly puddler and feeding station in the photo above. Here's how to make it:
Materials & Tools
- Bag of premixed concrete (we used QUIKRETE Sand/Topping ready-to-use mix)
- Packing Tape
- Box cutter
- Latex gloves
- Hose Spray Nozzle with Mister settings
- 2 bowls of desired size for puddler
Step 1: Tape up the concrete bag
To create your butterfly puddler start by setting a bag of dry, premixed concrete in place in the garden and tape the edges of the bag with packing tape to help the bag hold its shape.
Step 2: Cut the concrete bag face
Cut open the bag face from corner to corner with a box cutter, and peel back the paper, leaving an open rectangle.
Step 3: Create indentations in concrete for bowls
Press indentations into the exposed dry concrete mix with a pair of bowls. This project used 2 sizes of bowls, a smaller one just to shape the puddler on one side, then a larger bowl to hold fruit that will sit in the other indentation and can be removed for cleaning.
Step 4: Mist the concrete bag with water to set
With the bowls in position to keep the shape, use the mister setting on the hose nozzle to saturate the mix until it looks like water will seep out if you add more.
Twist and loosen the bowls to ensure they won’t stick, but leave them in place to make sure the indentations keep their shape as the concrete hardens.
Step 5: Cure concrete & remove bag
After the concrete has cured for four days, peel the bag off.
Fill your DIY butterfly puddler
To fill your butterfly puddler, put a mix of half sand, half compost or manure in one indentation and dampen it for butterflies to get moisture and minerals. Place food sources like overripe bananas or oranges in the other bowl.
Plant colorful, nectar-rich flowers like zinnias (Zinnia hybrids) nearby to help attract butterflies to your feeding station.