Butterfly watching for beginners

swallowtail butterfly

Birds aren’t the only visitors homeowners enjoy. Butterfly watching has been gaining popularity because it’s easy, inexpensive and fun for the whole family.

In Ohio, researchers have identified 140 different species of butterflies. You should be able able to observe a few dozen at your home or local park under ideal conditions.

Butterfly watching


  • Binoculars
  • Hat
  • Clothing that blends with the environment
  • Beginner’s field guide to identify new species
  • Notebook
  • Camera

When going butterfly watching you want to dress in clothing that blends with the environment, wearing a hat for sun protection. This will allow you to observe butterflies from a closer range. You should also bring binoculars to help identify distinguishing marks you can record in drawings in your notebook. If you manage to get close enough to take a picture, you can use your camera to save images to identify later.

Identifying butterflies

When using your field guide to identify butterflies you’ve spotted, focus on the big features first — size, shape, color. Then look for field marks such as tails eyespots (round markings on the wings with a darker or lighter center), other unique markings and barring.

Finding butterflies

Time of day. The best time of day to look for butterflies is during the early afternoon when they are most active.

Locations. Butterflies congregate along muddy areas, stream edges and puddles to obtain minerals not available on pollinator plants. They can also be found frequenting areas that are home to nectar sources and host plants distributed in large clusters.

Nectar stations. If you don’t want to add habitat or travel to observe butterflies, you can create a nectar station. Place a feeder on a stump or hang it from a tree branch and fill it with homemade nectar or other goodies to attract butterflies.

You can make homemade nectar by mixing one-part sugar with four-parts warm water. Use white cane sugar and make sure sugar is completely dissolved. You may also use overripe bananas, oranges, grapes, strawberries or apples in your feeder to attract butterflies. Just be sure to add water or homemade nectar to keep your fruit from drying out.

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Sara is Farm and Dairy’s managing editor. Raised in Portage County, Ohio, she earned a magazine journalism degree from Kent State University. She enjoys spending time with her daughter, traveling, writing, reading and being outdoors.



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