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Many people do not know what butterflies eat. The answer is simple: from nectar plants, and they don’t eat, they actually drink, from them. Each species of butterfly has plants of preference, but many feed on a wide variety of nectar sources.
What do butterflies eat? The question most people don’t know
Butterflies are not as specific in their food source as caterpillars are. Some adult butterfly species even prefer fruit and decaying dung over nectar.
What do butterflies eat at different stages?
How do caterpillars feed?
For many butterflies the caterpillar stage is the only time they actually eat. After the caterpillar hatches from the egg, they begin to feed and consume large amounts of food. They will only eat a specific species of aster.
Grey Hairstreaks eat many different types of leaves and plant materials. The caterpillar will feed until it grows large enough for its skin and then shed its skin. This process will repeat until it is time for the caterpillar to make a cocoon.
What do adult butterflies eat?
Many people don’t know exactly how the butterfly consumes its food. Well, it is through a small, straw-like pipette, which is rolled under its head most of the time and is what one uses to suck up all the nectar from the plants.
This is why all butterflies generally stick to an all-liquid diet; it is very difficult to suck up solids with a similarly shaped mouth.
Puddling, Nectaring, and other behaviors.
On a warm day shallow puddles will often have many types and colors of butterflies congregating in it. This behavior is called puddling. This usually happens because of the attraction that male butterflies have to these places.
The butterfly will extend its tongue to the surface of the puddle and suck up various minerals and salts that are important to the butterfly’s health. What the butterflies eat through puddling is thought to be for the extracted salts to aid in the production of pheromones.
The pheromones help the male butterfly attract the female. These puddles are incredible places to observe different types of them. If water is not available a butterfly may regurgitate on the ground and drink it to get the minerals it needs.
When butterflies extend their proboscis into a flower it is called nectaring. They are able to extract nectar from the flower through their tongues. This is also useful in the pollination of flowers.
Flowers are not the only thing that provide liquid nutrients, as they often feed on fruits, dung piles, sap and other materials that have dissolved in water.
Even wet sand or dirt often has enough liquid nutrients that the butterfly can get the nutrients it needs.
Fun fact: If you are working or playing on a hot day, a butterfly may land on you and want to drink from your skin. It is attracted to the salt and minerals in your sweat.