What do butterflies eat? I just wonder. Butterflies have been known to be peaceful, harmless creatures mostly attracted to flowers. They are beautiful, flying insects with large scaly wings and have 6 legs, 3 body parts, a pair of antennae, compound eyes, and an exoskeleton.
What do these wonderful creatures eat? what attracts them? how do they even eat? these and many more are questions that have surfaced the internet, as people are out searching to know more about these beautiful insects.
Luckily, this article is set to provide you with these answers and educate you on all you need to know about the butterfly diet. Without further ado Let’s get flying!
10 Shocking Details About the Butterfly
Before getting to know the butterfly diet, you should have a little knowledge about these wonderful winged insects. Below are magnified points to be noted about the butterfly:
- Flight: A butterfly will only be able to fly if its body temperature is above 86 degrees Celcius.
- Wings: The wings of a butterfly will begin to fade as it starts aging (getting older).
- Species: Some species of butterflies are poisonous while some are not poisonous (the poisonous ones are slower in flight than the less non-poisonous butterflies).
- Veins: Butterflies have veins that nourish them with blood.
- Lifecycle: A butterfly undergoes complete metamorphosis ( Egg to Larva to Pupa to Adult Butterfly).
- Environment: Butterflies can be found in every type of environment.
- Migration: Some butterflies migrate short distances while some migrate thousands of miles.
- Classification: Butterflies belong to the order Lepidoptera.
- Population: There are about 28, 000 species of butterflies in the world.
- Diet: Hey, take it easy! We’re getting to that.
What Do Butterflies Eat?
Butterflies are known to feed on a whole lot of things but normally its diet may be fixed on only a few things. The feeding habit of a butterfly and what it eats may depend on its:
- As well as the classification of butterfly involved.
Now let’s get into the diet of a butterfly.
The Mouthpart of a Butterfly
Insects are known to have different mouthparts that adapt to different classifications of feeding, from the piercing and sucking, biting and chewing, and finally, those who boreholes in their food. Butterflies fall under the classification of food suckers. The mouthpart of a butterfly is the sucking type and is most suitable for drawing out nectars from flowers. Immature butterflies do not develop these abilities yet but have chewing mouthparts instead, but when they grow into adults they develop into sucking mouthparts. Below are the features of the butterfly’s mouthpart:
- When they feed, their Proboscis unfolds into a straw-like shape to suck nectar and later return back to its original coiled structure after feeding.
- They lack Mandibles and Hypopharynx.
- They possess Labial and Maxillary palps in a reduced condition.
- The Labium reduces to a triangular plate that bears the Labial palps.
How do Butterflies Feed?
Butterflies with sucking mouthparts do not chew their food but suck the liquid with a siphon-like structure into their body. Their feeding method is similar to the case of using a straw to absorb liquid from a body or a cup of drink (even water). As mentioned earlier, when feeding their Proboscis unfolds into a straw-like shape to suck nectar and later return back to its original coiled structure after feeding. How does this happen? well, it’s simple. The Proboscis which is coiled like a spring straightens up due to high pressure of the Hemolymph ( Pressure generated in the stipes (the second joint in a maxilla) which is associated with each Galea). The straightened Proboscis shoots out into the flower’s nectar. The nectar is sucked up due to the sucking action of the Cibarium muscles and Pharyngeal muscles.
How do I Attract Butterflies?
Butterflies are very lovely creatures and have been able to gather millions of fans (including you). A lot of people usually say “I’ve never seen a butterfly in my home”, how do I get butterflies to come to my home? and answers have been given that “you should just get enough nectar”, well yes its true but it’ll take a lot more than that to keep these guys coming. Below are the possible ways of attracting butterflies to your homestead:
- Sunlight: As stated earlier, butterflies cannot fly at very low temperatures but will require the sun’s energy to warm their bodies so they can function. Butterflies are usually seen basking in the sun so they can function, as they cannot regulate their body temperatures internally. So when choosing an area where you want these beauties to perch say in your yard, you should ensure that it is very exposed to sunlight and has a basking spot for them.
- Wind: Butterflies are fond of gathering nectar, and wouldn’t like the wind coming to blow all its nectar away. When choosing a butterfly garden or habitat, it should be a place free from wind disturbance as they will require much energy to resist the wind energy. These can be avoided by planting tall trees to block wind from the garden.
- Flower Diversity: When planting flowers in your butterfly garden, try picking a variety of flower shapes, colors, and sizes to meet the needs of different butterflies as small butterflies (hairstreaks, coppers, etc.) prefer small flowers so they’ll be able to drink from the deep nectaries while large butterflies (swallowtails and monarchs) prefer large, flat flowers that’ll give them a good landing area. So planting flowers of different sizes, colors, and shapes will attract a whole lot of butterflies.
- Nectar Sources: Of course, we are fully aware that butterflies are very attracted to nectar. So do well to plant flowers that’ll provide nectar even till March or October.
- Avoid spraying pesticides around such areas (garden).
If you follow all these steps you’re sure of getting a whole lot of butterflies in your garden.
What do Butterflies Feed On?
As a beautiful lover, knowing what do butterflies eat is very important. Well, it would be good for you to know that butterflies do not eat but drink instead, I mean “they do not have teeth for chewing, but proboscis for sucking only. So now let’s correct ourselves, What do butterflies drink? Below is a detailed insight into the food sources that make up the butterfly diet:
- Nectar from Flowers
Butterflies are known to feed mainly on nectar from flowers by drawing their proboscis into the flower. This process is known as ‘Nectaring’. Their feeding habit helps in the pollination of flowers.
- Animal Excretions
Butterflies would sometimes be seen landing on your skin to drink your sweat. They will also feed on manure and rotting animal flesh as well.
- Fruit Juice
Flowers are not the only things that butterflies feed on, they also feed on fruits and suck out the juice and tree sap.
Some butterflies (harvester butterfly) have a very short proboscis and can pierce the bodies of small bugs (wooly aphids), and then drink the fluids from its body,
How Do I Feed a Butterfly?
If you want to feed a butterfly artificially, below are the simple ways of doing so:
- Make a sugar syrup (boiled) and place it in a nectar dish, with this you’re sure of getting some visitors (butterflies)
- Place cut fruits in a dish and hang on a tree, you will surely enjoy the view of your winged friends.
Butterflies are very lovely creatures and should not be considered pests in any way as their feeding habits are in every way beneficial to man. We sure are grateful to have been the source of your answers and do hope you come back for more. Having known what do butterflies eat? to make contributions or queries to this article contact us. Thank you and enjoy your butterfly garden!