We’ve already established that butterflies do not have tongues, but they also do not have any chewing mouthparts. So, how do they eat? If you see a butter closeup, you may notice a curled structure between the eyes that looks very much like a thick antennae. This is the proboscis. When the butter is still in the chrysalis stage, the proboscis is split. After eclosing it must be curled and uncurled a number of times so that is fuses or zips into a single structure which is something like a combination straw and sponge. If this doesn’t happen, the butterfly can’t feed properly. As the butter eats, it repeatedly uncurls the proboscis into the center of the flower where the nectar is held. Sometimes you may have a butter eclose that is unable to zip its proboscis, so what do you do? You can take a thin wire, like a paper clip and make a tiny hook at the end. Grasp the butterfly gently near the body and use the hook, which has been dipped in water, to tease the proboscis all the way out. Do this sever times and it should fuse.
Butterflies also require water. Mostly, they drink morning dew or small droplets of rain water. If you want to set up a butterfly drinking station, do not use a birdbath. They can’t land on water and will drown. If your area is suffering a drought, you can put out a shallow dish with some small rocks and just enough water to come up between the rocks, so they can stand on the rocks while they drink.
Butterflies also enjoy fruit stations, and this will often attract them to your yard. A dish of overripe bananas, oranges, berries, melons, etc., will provide them with a sweet and tasty treat with extra nutrients.
We all think of butterflies just flitting from flower to flower to eat. Then one day you notice a butter sipping from a pile of damp animal droppings or the carcass of a dead animal. What the…??? This feeding gives them added nutrients, salts, etc., without which they will be infertile. It may not be as enchanting as the flower scenario, but is necessary to the process of creating healthy and fertile butterflies.