What do butterflies eat?

By | February 8, 2018

Butterflies are some of the most beautiful creations of nature. These colorful insects are exquisitely beautiful, and have long been the object of fascination for scientists and laymen alike. These creatures have a very short life span, and are mostly seen flitting from one place to another. A particularly radiant garden with plenty of blooming flowers will especially see a high visitation from butterflies, flitting from flower to flower. That seems natural; after all, we do know that butterflies drink the nectar from flowers, don’t they? Somehow, that adds to the exquisiteness of these delicate creatures. But tell that to a lepidopterist- person who studies butterflies- and you will probably get burned by a scornful look.

what do butterflies eat

They don’t eat, actually

To be fair, butterflies don’t really eat anything, not in the strictly technical sense of the term. Butterflies have a regular drinking problem- that is to say, all they do is drink, drink, drink their lives away. Because butterflies do not chew, gobble, spit, or swallow, but simply use the proboscis in their mouth to drink up their food. This proboscis acts as a straw. Now the world is not littered with liquid foods at random, and now that we know they ingest more than nectar, that gives rise to the question: how do they know which is edible? Well, they have taste buds on their feet, which tells them which food is nutritious and actually food.

Nectar, pollen, and sap

The thing about the nectar from flowers is not a myth. Butterflies do flit from flower to flower drinking their precious nectar. This is, in fact, their staple food, and a habit that is seen among all kinds of butterflies. They do, however, discriminate; by using the sensors on their feet, they decide whether a flower is worth spending time in. Besides, different butterflies will go for different kinds of plants as a matter of preference. And, just like humans of a particular region will adapt to a certain kind of cuisine, similarly, butterflies native to a region will prefer plants and flowers of the local variety. And they also drink tree sap and eat pollen from flowers.

Dung and rotting things

Basically, a butterfly will drink anything that can dissolve in water. Hence, they will eat nectar and tree sap, which is quite in keeping with their delicate image. But the pretty list pretty much ends there. Butterflies will also feed on dung. They also show preference for rotting fruits, and even rotting animal carcasses. Male butterflies are also known to dip their feet into mud puddles and drinking their fill from it. However, do note that is behavior is typical of the make butterfly only. It drinks the mud water to get the minerals and salt into its system to boost its sperm.

It is indeed very flattering for many people when they see a butterfly land on them. It does make for a pretty picture, doesn’t it? But the fact is, butterflies are attracted to salt, which is found in abundant quantities in sweat. So, it is likely that they are attracted by the sweat pouring down your face than anything else.

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