How to feed Gatorade to butterflies

Many enthusiasts use Gatorade to feed adult butterflies. These are butterflies that are being temporarily held inside for one reason or another. People who have never used Gatorade have questions. What kind of Gatorade? Which flavor? Does color matter? How do I feed Gatorade to them? What if they don’t eat?

Butterfly feeders and Monarch butterflies

Butterfly feeders are available commercially. IMPORTANT: these are rarely used by butterflies except in an exhibit or a contained area. Wild butterflies, flying wild in the garden/yard, rarely drink from feeders.

Here are a few tips:
1. Use straight Gatorade. Do not dilute.
2. Use normal Gatorade, not low-calorie Gatorade.
3. They may begin feeding on their own but you may have to get them started. Gatorade is not something they instinctively recognize as food.
4. Although most go to red color if given a choice, they feed from any color.
5. Red dye will go through their bodies and make their pee red. This red stains clothes. Other colors do not go through their bodies but if spilled, other darker colors will stain clothing too.
6. Light blue does not stain clothes and contains the same nutrients as any other colored Gatorade.
7. Butterflies do not tend to drink the day they emerge. Leave them alone the first day. Begin feeding on the second day. If a butterfly does not feed on the second day, you can help it recognize that it is food. Photos below illustrate how to hand-feed a butterfly to help it recognize Gatorade as food.
8. Male butterflies need salt. Gatorade has the necessary amount of salt.
9. Check out the photos at the bottom of this page.

Remember, Gatorade isn’t the only liquid that can be used. Fruit juice can be used in place of Gatorade. Fruit juice may not have enough salts. Males need salt in their diet. Some species of butterflies drink from rotting fruit. If they are in a container or cage/exhibit, you can offer both Gatorade (or juice) and rotting fruit. We recommend changing out the fruit at least three times a week to prevent fruit flies from breeding on the fruit.

How to hand-feed butterflies:

Hand feed Monarch butterfly Gatorade

1. Pour Gatorade into cup or other object. Place on table in room with a bright window.

Hand feed Monarch butterfly Gatorade

2. Using a paper clip or toothpick, uncurl proboscis into liquid

Hand feed Monarch butterfly Gatorade

3. Release butterfly. If it flies immediately to the window, try again. After several tries, wait an hour before trying again.

Hand feed Monarch butterfly Gatorade

When the butterfly is through feeding, it flies to the brightest light. For this reason, have curtains of at least one window open, creating a bright spot in the room.

How to hand feed a butterfly Gatorade

Several butterflies can feed from the same cup/lid.

How to hand feed a butterfly Gatorade

Gatorade can be used for any species of butterfly. These are wild caught Eastern Tiger Swallowtails, all content to drink Gatorade indoors.

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