Home & Garden Garden Make Food for Struggling Monarch Butterflies Using Your Leftovers Monarchs need food and you can help. By Melissa Breyer Melissa Breyer Twitter Editorial Director Hunter College F.I.T., State University of New York Cornell University Melissa Breyer is Treehugger’s editorial director. She is a sustainability expert and author whose work has been published by the New York Times and National Geographic, among others. Learn about our editorial process Updated August 31, 2022 Share Twitter Pinterest Email By Eve Livesey / Getty Images Home & Garden Planting Guides Indoor Gardening Urban Farms Insects In This Article Expand Recipe Using Old Fruit Recipe Using Beer & Bananas Simple Sugar Water Pity the monarch butterflies. Not only do the earnest flutterers fly up to 265 miles a day on their trek between northern and southern climes, but they must do so in the face of a number of challenges. Some years bring strong winds and unusual weather, which can throw off the timing of the migration. Scientists and butterfly observers alike stay on the watch for “ecological mismatch.” Concerns include whether or not milkweed host plants will be ready for their lepidopteran guests. Will there be a surprise cold snap? Will the unusual weather affect breeding success? The butterflies are at a critical point. Population estimates rise and fall, but deforestation of the overwintering habitat in Mexico continues to threaten the species. And in the north (U.S. and Canada), the butterflies face habitat destruction thanks to new roads, housing developments, and agricultural expansion. They are also up against more subtle forms of habitat destruction in the loss of milkweed, which larvae feed on exclusively. Considered a pesky nuisance by many, milkweed is often weeded into oblivion. Both milkweed and nectar plants are vulnerable to the herbicides used by landscapers, farmers, and gardeners, and others—not to mention the lethal impact insecticides have on the butterflies. Re-establishing milkweed is crucial. So if you have an extra patch of dirt, perhaps consider planting some milkweed. In the meantime, you can also help the flitting lovelies by using leftovers to make butterfly food—a perfect win-win! Recipe Using Old Fruit The National Wildlife Federation suggests using a plate and adding fruit that is going bad. Butterflies are particularly fond of sliced, rotting oranges, grapefruits, strawberries, peaches, nectarines apples, and bananas—they benefit from the nutrient-rich liquid of the rotting, fermenting fruit. Simply place on plates and put outside. The mixture can be kept moist by adding water or fruit juice. Recipe Using Beer & Bananas From "The Butterfly Garden," by Matthew Tekulsky (Harvard Common Press, 1985) comes this formula which makes use of old bananas and flat beer. It is based on much of the same premise as above, but it has more ingredients. The delivery is different as well. 1 pound sugar1 or 2 cans stale beer3 mashed overripe banana1 cup of molasses or syrup1 cup of fruit juice1 shot of rum Mix all ingredients well and paint on trees, fence posts, rocks, or stumps–or simply soak a sponge in the mixture and hang from a tree limb. Simple Sugar Water Master Gardener Bobbie Truell from Texas A & M University recommends this simple alternative food source. 4 parts water1 part granulated sugar 1. Boil the solution for several minutes until sugar is dissolved, and then let cool. Serve the solution in a shallow container with an absorbent material such as paper towels saturated with the sugar solution. 2. Bright yellow and orange kitchen scouring pads may be placed in the solution to attract butterflies and give them a resting place while they drink. 3. Place the feeder among your nectar flowers on a post that's 4-6 inches higher than the tallest blooms. Extra solution can be stored in your refrigerator for up to a week.