What Do Butterflies Eat


So what do butterflies eat?

Di you ever hear the classic saying that butteflies don't eat at all, and wondered how they survive then?


There were times I wondered myself, thinking maybe they only mate and live a very short life so the energy resources last from the larvae stage.

Monarch Butterflies, Danaus Plexippus, Resting on a Flower
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But then, butterflies do visit flowers, they are evn important pollinators, so what else would be the reason than eating??

Well the classic saying is a bit tricky as it hides the fact that butterflies do drink - they drink nectar.

But yes, they do not eat - not any flower, leaf or other plant parts, let alone any animal material. It is only the butterfly larvaes that eat - the only stage in the butterflies life cycle.

The main purpose of the adult stage, when a butterfly is actually a butterfly - is reproduction, so they do need the energy. Flying also takes a lot of energy. They get all that energy from the sweet nectar.

Marbled White Butterfly, Melanargia Galathea, Sips Lavender Nectar
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They have a tube like mouth part, a bit like an elephant's trunk, and they use that to suck nectar out of the flowers.

It is handy to know how the nectar tastes before they put the trunk in, so their taste receptors are in their feet. As soon as they land on a flower they know how it tastes.

Butterfly Eating Nectar from a Flower Blossom
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In other words - the answer to the question what do butterflies eat is that they can only eat liquids, but that does not mean they are restricted to the nectar. They also drink the liquid from rotting fruit, also pollen, even dung and bird droppings, tree sap, water, and they even like savoury things since sodium is one of the minerals that is important for their reproduction. The can be seen eating minerals from the soil:

Group of Butterflies Eating Minerals from the Soil
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The larvae stage - the caterpillars - are big eaters and they only eat leaves and other plant material.



















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