Feeding a butterfly that you have raised or found can be quite easy. Often times a butterfly found on the edge of a roadside or pathway can be nurtured back to healthy with a simple feeding of the right solution and later released as a healthy adult again.
For a first aid treatment you can use popular children juices, colas, and fruit punches. Even a teaspoon of sugar mixed with 10 teaspoons of water will suffice in the short term. Tap water should be avoided because of some of the chemicals that it may contain. Bottled water would be a much safer bet.
Whatever you choose, make sure that the solution is at room temperature or warmer when served.
Now many butterfly Experts have their own solutions but I would like to explain one that has worked wonders for me over the years. It is a mixture of Gatorade (or any other Sports drink), soy sauce and simple syrup. Gatorade works much better than plain water. Now for a quick fix you can use regular white cane sugar in the short term but simple syrup works much better. Do not use honey because it can cause some problems from re-crystallizing to harboring bacteria and other nasty things.
To make simple syrup add 1 cup of sugar to 1 cup of water and bring it to almost a boil. Right before the water actually starts to boil the sugar/ water solution will become clear. Immediately remove it from the heat and allow it to cool. To mix up the solution take 3 ounces of water or Gatorade and add 1 teaspoon of simple syrup to it. Then add about 6 drops of soy sauce. Don’t worry this is a very important part of the solution.
Since butterflies taste with their feet it is most important to have them come in contact with the feeding solution so that they can taste it and that will cause them to uncurl their proboscis and begin to feed. To accomplish this you can use several different methods. For just one butterfly you can dip a Q-tip into the solution and place it onto the butterfly’s feet. Another way would be to place a cotton ball into the lid of a jar or bottle cap. Saturate it with the feed solution and then place the butterfly’s feet down onto the cotton ball.
You will have to pick the butterfly up by its closed wings but that is okay. If you are the least bit careful you will not hurt the butterfly. If you feel uncomfortable about doing this remember without your help the butterfly will probably not make it on its own so it may become an issue of saving its life or not.
I have been physically handing hundreds of butterflies every moth for the last 30 years so I know that they can be handled without harming them. Just make sure that your fingers are dry and your touch is gentle and you shouldn't have any problems.
If your butterfly refuses to uncurl its proboscis on its own you may need to coax it out. Simply take a toothpick or skewer and by using the pointed part place it into the center of the curled proboscis and slowly pull it down. If you go slowly you will not hurt the butterfly. Hold the tip of the proboscis to the cotton feeding surface for a few seconds. You will either see the antennae start to point straight down or the proboscis will begin to show a pumping action. At that time you can let go with the toothpick or skewer and it should feed on its own. Every butterfly eats different amounts. Even within the same species some will eat more than other ay certain times. It all depends on a lot of factors.
A larger number of butterflies can be fed in the same way just by using the same setup on a bigger scale.