What do butterflies eat?
Types of Butterflies
The question of the butterfly diet is very popular, and relatively simple to answer. In brief, most butterflies do not eat anything, although they do drink liquids.
While butterflies do not eat in the traditional sense, they have a proboscis, or long tube in their mouth that acts like a straw for drinking.
You will often see butterflies perched on flowers, manure piles and fruit gathering different nutrients.
Another common butterfly behavior called puddling refers to butterflies that congregate in shallow water or wet areas to grab a drink on a warm sunny day. The video at the top of the article shows a close up view of a Melissa Blue gathering fluid and nutrients from the ground.
People interested in butterfly photography should take note of puddling butterflies. Water patches in ditches on the side of the road are a great place to find a variety of butterfly species.
There are always exceptions to the butterflies do not eat rule. Dr. Paul A. Opler of the U.S. Geological Survey, for example, says, "Longwing butterflies such as the Zebra butterfly are able to collect pollen from certain flowers with their proboscis and to break it down and absorb amino acids (proteins) which contribute to the ability to survive, mate and lay eggs for long periods (6 months or so). With their short proboscis (tongue) the adults of Harvester butterflies can actually pierce the bodies of woolly aphids and drink their fluids--this would be the only bugs that adult butterflies eat."
"The caterpillar of almost all butterflies eat various parts of plants. Each species may specialize of only a few kinds of plants or plant parts. The caterpillars of the Harvester butterfly and its relatives are exceptions in that they feed solely on aphids."
© 2005-2010 Patricia A. Michaels.