Do Butterflies Prefer Sugar Water, Salt Water, or Plain Water?

3.8 based on 13 ratings

Updated on Feb 12, 2014

Grade Level: 4th - 7th; Type: Zoology


We will find out whether butterflies prefer to drink sugar water, salt water, or plain water.

Research Questions:

There are so many species of butterflies. The Monarch, Painted Lady, and the Swallowtail are just to name a few! They come in all shapes, sizes, and different colors. Some butterflies only live for a few days while some are known to live upwards of a year. In this experiment you'll need longer lived butterflies, so that we can discover what kinds of water most attract them.


  • Butterflies (You may be able to catch these, if it is spring/summer and butterflies are abundant, but otherwise you'll have to get larvae or butterflies from a certified butterfly breeder like this one. Don't get butterflies with short life spans!)
  • Three butterfly cages
  • Three small, shallow dishes
  • Sugar
  • Salt
  • Water
  • Measuring spoon
  • Pen/paper for notes

Experimental Procedure

Note: The environment your butterfly is in should be warm.

  1. Prepare three small, shallow dishes of water. One should be mixed with about a ½ - ¾ teaspoon of sugar, one should be mixed with about a ½ - ¾ teaspoon of salt, and the 3rd dish should be left plain.
  2. Place each dish in a separate cage. Remember which cage held which kind of water--you can label this.
  3. Place equal amounts of butterflies in each of your butterfly cages. You should put no more than five in each cage. But this of course, depends on the cage size.
  4. Observe for 1-2 weeks whether your butterflies feast in the dish in the cages or not. You should replenish the dish if it goes dry.
  5. Make a conclusion based on your results from the data you collected.

Suggested Chart

Water Type
Day 1
Day 2
Day 3
Day 4
Day 5
Day 6
Day 7



Terms/Concepts: Butterflies; Butterfly diet; Insects; Kinds of butterflies


Sofia PC is currently a college student with a deep interest in science who is aspiring to become a writer. She writes about all sorts of things across all subjects including, but not limited to; science, crafts, and fashion. She hopes to become a good writer so she can share her thoughts and experiences with the world and future generations.

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