Hodson recommended sponges–scrubbers, actually–soaked in grape- or punch-flavored Gatorade laid out in shallow dishes in the butterfly cage. Since butterflies taste with their feet, you have to set them on the sponge so they can “taste” the fake nectar, whetting their appetite. At that point, they will extend their long proboscis and slurp some fuel to power their flight.
If the butterflies resist the sponge or scrubber, Hodson suggests taking a Q-tip, dipping it in the Gatorade and gently touching the creatures’ proboscis so they get the hang of it.
“They’re not hungry for the first 24 – 48 hours,” Hodson assured me by phone. “Give it a try.”
I did, and it worked. Two days after the Gatorade buffet, temperatures climbed into the high 60s. On that sunny Friday, I took the cages outside, unzipped the door, and off they went.