Picture of a butterfly - what do they eat?

What Do Butterflies Eat? The Answer May Surprise You

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Butterflies are insects that are closely related to moths. Butterflies have large, brightly-colored wings that flap very rapidly when they fly. They have a four-stage life cycle and spend part of their lives as caterpillars. Various species of butterflies live all over the world.

Butterflies’ food is ingested through a tube-like tongue called the proboscis. What do butterflies eat? A more accurate question would be, what do butterflies drink?

What Do Butterflies Eat?

Butterflies feed on almost exclusively liquid foods because their proboscis can only absorb liquids, and they do not have teeth to chew. However, they find them from a variety of sources, which include:

  • The nectar from flowers and other plants is one of the most common sources of butterflies’ food. They can suck it from deep inside the plant using their proboscis.
  • Fruit: butterflies can use their proboscis to suck liquid from many of the same delicious fruits we eat.
  • Salty liquids: if you want to encourage butterflies to land on you, don’t wipe your sweat on a hot day.
  • Some types of butterflies eat other insects. 

How Do Butterflies Find Food?

Butterflies are foragers, meaning they’re almost always flying around looking for something to eat. What do butterflies eat in the wild? They will eat anything they can find that will provide them nourishment and be easy to digest.

If you watch butterflies, you’ll notice that they land relatively frequently. This is because they use sensors (similar to taste buds) in their feet to taste the area where they land, looking for food. Their feet also tell them if they land on something poisonous. Butterflies rely on additionally inherited instincts to find food. 

How Much Do Butterflies Eat?

It’s hard to describe how much butterflies eat. If you’re raising butterflies and wondering how much and what to feed a butterfly in the wild, they may eat every day or not. A butterfly can go several days without eating as they migrate in search of a viable food source.  

As stated above, butterflies are foragers. That means that they eat what, when, and where they can. Butterflies rarely find an unlimited food source, but they won’t necessarily stay put if they do. They also have to keep moving to evade predators.

What Eats Butterflies?

Speaking of predators, butterflies have to be concerned about other animals in their environment. They make a tasty treat for many other living things, mostly small animals. Depending on their natural habitats, these include wasps, rats, mice, snakes, birds, lizards, monkeys, and many others. 

Butterflies face many other dangers in the wild. This is true for many species of insects currently experiencing declining numbers. Some species of butterflies are already endangered due to climate change, the destruction of their environments, and other changes. 

At the same time, butterflies have appeared in works of art for more than 3,500 years. They appear in works of literature, folklore, and even religious traditions. Even today, they continue to fascinate and be featured in films, books, home decor, and much more. 

Tips from Our Vets

Though it may seem weird to try to identify different animals’ feces, there are many cases where you may need to do exactly that.

Many home and property owners come across animal feces and are concerned about what animals may be lurking. Being able to identify the feces that wildlife and rodents leave behind will not only let you know what animals are in the area, but also can give clues as to how many of them are present.

At first, it can be distressing to find foreign looking animal feces in your home or on your property. Fears of aggressive or rabid animals, as well as the diseases they may carry are often the first worries.

Protecting your family and pets is of utmost importance. However, taking the time to correctly identify the feces is essential in assessing the threat or risk from the animals.

This research will also enable a home or property owner to devise an effective strategy for keeping any pest animals out of their homes, barns, or other areas where they are not welcome.

Scat Identification Techniques

  1. The first thing to do if you come across scat, or feces from animals, is to observe the location of the droppings. Notice where the feces are in relation to buildings, other structures, other animals, water, roads, and vegetation. Different animals will place their droppings in particular locations and this can be the first clue to identifying them.
  2. Next, observe the placement of the scat. Are the feces hidden or buried? Are they randomly dropped all over an area with seemingly little regard for placement, or are they tucked away in corners or neat piles? These factors can greatly narrow down the list of possible culprits.
  3. Note the size of the scat. If you are investigating feces found in your home or on your property, it is a good idea to obtain a ruler or tape measure that you can use to measure. Some animals’ feces may look identical to others from the same family, and size may be the only distinguishing feature. *REMEMEBR: animal feces can carry both diseases and parasites so they should never be handled without gloves.*
  4. What is the shape of the found fecal matter? Some shape characteristics to look for include if the feces are round, tapered at the ends, completely tubular, round pellets, twisted, or moist mounds.
  5. An additional clue to the species of animal leaving the scat is what is included in the feces. Berries, hair, seeds, and plant parts should all be looked for in the droppings. This information can be used to identify the animal that left it.
  6. Lastly, look around the area where you first identified the scat. In cases of feces from animals that have similar appearing feces to another species, it can be helpful to search for nearby footprints or tracks left by the animals. This can be used to confirm species.

If you’re looking for more information on animal diets, we created a guide to human foods dogs can and can’t eat, and you can also check out our resources on the diets of various animals below:

Pet News Daily Staff
Pet News Daily writers are experts in pet care, health and behavior. We are members of Society for Professional Journalists and practice ethical journalism.