Visiting the Niagara Falls Butterfly Conservatory
Niagara Falls' Butterfly Conservatory, and Botanical Gardens are located on the Niagara Escapment just north of the Falls. 2565 Niagara Parkway, Niagara Falls, Canada. The butterfly conservatory is on the grounds of the Botanical Gardens.
We visited on a cold rainy day and had a fabulous time. We did not visit the botanical gardens because it was raining with great enthusiasm.Link to the Botanical Gardens and to the Butterfly Conservatory Websites
The butterflies are kept in a large lush greenhouse complete with tropical trees, flowers, and even a waterfall. It's a lovely setting for the butterflies.
There is a great swoosh of moving air and of the waterfall.
There are a couple of terrariums with tiny poisonous frogs dressed in the most fabulous yellow and blue.
A large turtle was asleep on a rock and coi patrolled the pool below the waterfalls.
The plants are chosen because they have flowers that attract the butterflies.
Some of the flowers were absolutely covered in butterflies. Different flowers attract different butterflies.
False vervain was widely planted on the ground and attracted many different kinds of butterflies. False vervain needs warmer climate than we have but other vervains also attract butterflies. As soon as I got home I ordered some vervain seeds for my butterfly garden area.
It is quite delightful to have the butterflies fluttering around and occasionally landing on people.
Some butterflies were content to sit quietly on someone's pants, and let themselves be photographed, but others never stood still long enough to say "cheese". The greenhouse was full of the large wonderful blue morphos but they are very active and hard to photograph. I have a dozen photos with big blue smudges across them.
All around the greenhouse there are platters of fruit. Apparently the butterflies like very ripe and rotting fruit.
There are also lots of little dishes of water with coloured beads for drinking water.
The butterflies also feed from feeders scattered around the greenhouse. They use a commercial mix that is mostly sugar and water. There are some vitamins and preservatives added.
The butterfly feeders have 2 different ways of feeding. There are wicks that stick out of the top, and there are red flower with a central hole that allows the butterfly to suck the sugar solution by placing his proboscis in the opening. I think the depressions are for fruit or water but I did not see them being used. The butterflies seemed to prefer the fruit but there were enough feeding from the feeders to make me think that I would like to try one in the yard. They might work for hummingbirds and if I put grape jelly in the depression, it might attract Baltimore Orioles.
Amazon.com has several models, here's one: Songbird Essentials Butterfly Feeder and Nectar Combo
I expect that just like the hummingbird feeder it will attract wasps and ants if not placed correctly. It might also attract honey bees.
Where does the butterfly conservatory get their butterflies?
They get about 60% of their butterflies from Costa Rican and Philipino butterfly farms. The rest is grown in house in one of their buildings. The butterflies are shipped usually as cocoons and are hatched on site. There is a window in the greenhouse that allows you to see the butterflies emerging.
Recipe for home made butterfly feeder nectar
There are many recipes for nectar. The only one I have tried is a 4:1 sugar solution. 4 parts water to one part sugar. It was not a great success.
Serious butterfly people all say the same thing, butterflies like fermenting fruit. There are several recipes where over ripe bananas are cut or mashed, beer is added, then sugar and water. This is allowed to ferment for a few days and served to adoring butterflies. Extra servings can be frozen till needed.
Another recipe adds molasses and rum.
This recipe is from: The Butterfly Garden, by Matthew Tekulsky, it includes old bananas and flat beer.(In my case fresh beer because it does not get a chance to go stale.)
1 pound sugar
1 or 2 cans stale beer
3 mashed overripe banana
1 cup of molasses or syrup
1 cup of fruit juice
1 shot of rum
Mix ingredients well and serve in a shallow dish or better a sponge.
Nigel Venters suggests making a thick sugar solution with just enough water to dissolve the sugar. Heat this till it's a syrup. Add regular soy till the solution looks like weak tea. Bottle in airtight containers. When required, dilute the syrup to a 5-10% solution.
Gatorade is sometimes also added to the butterfly food. I'm not sure what it does but some people claim great success with it as an ingredient. Typically the recipe calls for sugar syrup diluted with gatorade and often has soy sauce added.
Next summer I will run a series of experiments with different recipes and report.