What do butterflies eat? You must be wondering what butterflies feed on to survive and thrive right? The mere mention of a butterfly will always invoke a beautiful picture of the colourful 6-legged creature fluttering gracefully from one flower to another; The Butterfly will then collect nectar and feed on it, right? Truth to be told, butterflies cannot get all the nutrients that they need from nectar alone. Hence they need to rely on other food.
What do butterflies eat?
For the uninitiated, butterflies feed entirely on fluid. In order to feed, butterflies will use their apparatus which looks like straw to sip their liquid food. Yeah~so butterflies will suck the "life out of their food" just like how a vampire would sink its fangs into its prey. OK! Just kidding but essentially butterflies will drink their food. I discovered their peculiar diet when we visited Entopia Penang. So let's find out what are the things that butterflies eat, shall we?
7 Different Food That Butterflies Eat
Flowering plants (angiosperms) produce nectar from their flowers because these plants need to attract insects to facilitate pollination, which is vital for the reproduction of the plant. Then again I like I have aforementioned, nectar alone will not be enough for the butterflies.
Butterflies have been found to be interested in tears as well. In Puerto Viejo River in Costa Rica, a photographer had managed to snap photos of a butterfly drinking the tears of a caiman which was basking under the sun. The butterfly was photographed drinking the caiman's tears for salts and minerals. Of course the caiman obtained it from its carnivorous diet.
Perhaps this is not entirely unexpected as fruits are closed related to flowers, no? Butterflies have developed a penchant for rotting fruits thanks to its alcohol which is produced from fermentation. Carbohydrates and minerals can also be found in the juices during the rotting process. Here's a fun fact: Butterflies do get drunk too. Hence after feeding on rotting fruits, they will get tipsy and sluggish, thus rendering them unable to react to threats.
4. Faeces and Urine
I totally did not expect butterflies to feed on faeces and urine at all! OMG! What? Butterfly sucks the liquid from shirt and pee? I will never ever going to let them land on my fingers again at least not the wild ones. This is really bizarre but I guess butterflies have enjoy to have these in their menu. Apparently the liquid from dung and urine contain the essential minerals and salts that male butterflies need for their health and fertility. *gasp* 😱
If a butterfly seems to be fond of you by landing on your fingers and hands, it is not because you are a Disney princess who can call out to Mother Nature. It turns out that they are actually attracted to your sweat as it is part of their diet. Our perspiration is rich in (again) essential salts and minerals. Yeah~so butterflies love it when you are sticky.
6. Tree Sap
Next on the list is tree sap and I am glad that this diet is normal. As a tree contains xylem and phloem tissues to transport water, sugar, minerals and other nutrients, it makes perfect sense that butterflies would want to feed on tree sap. Tree sap usually flows out of the tree trunk's cracked bark that is caused either by internal pressure, animals or wind damage.
IMHO, this is by far the most bizarre diet of a butterfly. It is incredulous to discover that carrion is actually food for butterfly as well. Carrion is actually the decaying flesh of dead animals. So in other words, butterflies will feed on animal carcasses. Goodness! Guess they cannot resist the liquid release from the decay which is rich in minerals, salts, amino acids and other essential nutrients. Nature can be really, really scary at times. 😨
So the next time you see a fluttering butterfly and get excited to touch it, think twice. It might have just fed on dead animals, shit or even urine. So here are 7 different food that a butterfly feeds on. After knowing their unique diet, I doubt I will ever look at a butterfly the same way again, let alone let one fly near me.