Bell peppers, bananas and beer: the Cockrell Butterfly Center’s Grocery List

December 8, 2016
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Take a look at this list. You are probably thinking, “ok, someone’s shopping list, so what?“. What if I told you that most of these things are not even for human consumption, but for butterflies, reptiles, and other various insects? You’d probably think I’m crazy! Well, you’re not alone.


Have you ever bought Guinness at 8:00 am on a weekday? Or had a ton of produce rung up leading the cashier to comment “wow, aren’t you healthy!“, only to reply, “oh, it’s not for me, it’s for bugs.” Yeah, they all think we’re crazy! These are the realities of our weekly grocery shopping for the Cockrell Butterfly Center

The truth is that it costs us $150-$200 a month at the local HEB to keep our butterflies, bugs, iguanas, and tortoises well fed and happy. And yes, our butterflies drink beer, and not just your run of the mill pilsner, it’s gotta be the good stuff! Actually, we feed our butterflies an appetizing mixture of overripe bananas, brown sugar, and dark beer. We use Guinness because it’s not pasteurized, so it contains the bacteria goodness that ensures the butterflies’ preferred level of fermentation. Yummy! Our nectar feeding butterflies get pumped up on Amino Fuel, which is a supplement that can be found on the health food/vitamin isle. We add it to our nectar bowls (a mixture of 4 parts water to 1 part sugar) to give the butterflies a little more protein. Many of them would feed on pollen, or even feces in the wild to get additional protein in their diet. 

Oh, and butterflies are so high maintenance. The laundry detergent, it’s mostly to wash our “butterfly diapers”. When our butterflies emerge, they squirt out the remains of their last meal as a caterpillar. It’s called meconium and it’s quite messy. We use white towels to soak it up and they have to be laundered every week!

We have a lot of vegetarians around here too. Two iguanas, 3 tortoises, and A LOT of bugs. Grasshoppers, millipedes, beetles, and tons of cockroaches! I wonder how the people at the store would look at me if I told them that at least 50% of that produce is going to feed cockroaches. 

Finally, there are SOME humans in our office that do require just a few things to keep us going while we’re running around feeding all of these animals. Also, all of those humans are females, so we need to keep the coffee and chocolate well stocked!

Authored By Erin M Mills

Erin Mills received her undergraduate degree in Entomology from Texas A&M University in 2004, and after a short tour of the pest control industry, joined HMNS as the Cockrell Butterfly Center's Insect Zoo Manager in 2005. Over the years she expanded the butterfly center's live arthropod collection, developed the ever popular "Bugs on Wheels" outreach program, and continued to establish her role as HMNS's insect expert. In October of 2016, she achieved her long time goal of becoming the Director of the Cockrell Butterfly Center and in January of 2021, she joined the team at HMNS Sugar Land as the Director of Nature Programming. Erin leads hikes in Brazos Bend State Park and provides fun, hands-on nature-based experiences at HMNS Sugar Land. As a Board Certified Entomologist, Erin has extensive knowledge of insect identification, ecology, plant relationships, husbandry, really any insect-related topic!

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