Preference of supplemental nectar by three native butterfly species


Edwards M, Bacchus R, Braunstein C, DeWitt T, Peters A, Lisi K. 2007. Preference of supplemental nectar by three native butterfly species. In Ward A, Hunt A, Maslanka M, Eds. Proceedings of the Seventh Conference on Zoo and Wildlife Nutrition, AZA Nutrition Advisory Group, Knoxville, TN.


Two diets, a sugar-water solution (Diet A) and nutritionally complete nectar solution (Diet B), provided in a mixed species enclosure as a source of nutrients for multiple nectivorous species were evaluated for preference among three North American species of butterflies. Preference was defined as number of visits to one of two nectar feeders. The feeder containing Diet B was preferentially visited over the feeder containing Diet A during the observation period (P<0.01). Although diets were randomly placed between two locations, Location 2 was preferentially visited over Location 1 during the observation period (P<0.05). There was a significant (P<0.05) interaction between location and diet. These results suggest that the animals selected the nutritionally complete solution (Diet B) over a solution that provides primarily carbohydrates and water (Diet A). However, solution characteristics that influence preference in these animals cannot be elucidated based solely upon these observations. The continued use of the sugar solution, in conjunction with the nutritionally complete nectar solution, appears unwarranted. Additional research should be conducted to minimize the confounding factors encountered in this study and further examine those variables that are influencing preference.