by Rick Mikula, Web Naturalist
Time saving techniques are greatly welcomed by anyone who rears butterflies. In search of creating a more diverse culinary offering, I have discovered this little tidbit: butterflies love watermelon. Monarchs find it especially attractive and readily swarm to it. Even with the presence of natural nectar and pollen sources, watermelon seems to be preferred . While approaching the monarchs at feeding time, proboscises can be seen flogging the air in anticipation.
To serve this delicacy is quite simple. Lop off a chunk and slap it onto a non-porous dish. Stand back so you arc not trampled in the ensuing stampede.
The watermelon should be brought up to room temperature first. If it is to be offered as a wedge shaped slice, it should be scored. Take a knife and make random slashes into the red pulp. This will allow for the juice to "well up" inside the cuts and feeding becomes easier. If not done, the liquid recedes and becomes unreachable. However, the wedge shape does allow the wings to hang vertically and not make contact with the sticky surface.
If you have access to a plastic grate or coarse mesh, it is better to cut the melon into small pieces. In this fashion, the butterflies will make contact with all sides and slashing will not be necessary. By using smaller pieces your melon will last longer with less waste. Place the pieces on a dish and cover with a gridwork protector .Wooden skewers placed in a crossed pattern do nicely. Plastic and wood can be cleaned after every feeding. The skewers also keep the butterflies from dragging their wings across the liquid and ruining them. Not only is this a fun way to feed, but it saves time.
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