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Butterfly Food: What Butterflies Eat

Updated on October 6, 2010

Have you ever wondered what butterflies eat? There are a few different reasons that you might have thought about this question. If it was a passing thought that you didn't bother to research, you ma be unable to figure out what butterflies eat on your own. That's because butterflies really don't eat much of anything at all. They do, however, drink from certain plants in order to stay alive. Additionally, before becoming butterflies, the caterpillar will eat certain plants.

Why You Would Wonder What Butterflies Eat

There are a few different reasons that you might wonder what it is that butterflies eat. Here are some of the most common reasons that people start asking this question:

  • General musing. People who see butterflies or who are just thinking about them for one reason or another may just randomly come across this question in their minds and realize that they don't know the answer.
  • Someone else brings it up. Most people don't ever think about what butterflies eat. However, if someone else brings up the question then they might start to wonder - "yeah, that's interesting, what DO butterflies eat?"
  • An interest in photographing butterflies. The easiest way to photograph any sort of animal in the wild is to figure out what it eats and to make that available so that they will come around. People who want to take photos of butterflies may try to figure out what they eat to get them to come around and get those pictures.

Butterflies Don't Eat, They Drink

The answer to the question of what butterflies eat is deceptive because most people will answer that they don't eat anything. We all know that even insects must eat something in order to stay alive though so it's obvious that the butterfly must eat something. The truth is that they have a proboscis inside the mouth which essentially serves as a natural straw. The butterfly can insert this into flowers and fruit to drink out the nectar or juice that is inside. The butterfly can even sit atop a shallow puddle of water and use the proboscis to drink water from the puddle. Some butterflies are capable of doing the same type of things to get the liquid outside of aphids so it could be argued that butterflies sometimes eat aphids although this isn't common.

Caterpillars Eat Plants

Although butterflies don't technically eat anything, they do consume plants when they are still in caterpillar form. It's difficult to say which types of plants the caterpillar will eat or even which part of the plant the caterpillar will eat. This is because each species of caterpillar differs from the others in the plants that it will eat. The majority of them will eat the leaves of the plant but this isn't necessarily always true. It should also be noted that some caterpillars are able to eat the aphid. So if you had to answer what butterflies eat, your best bet would be to answer the aphid!

The Myth of the Butterfly

The fact that the butterfly doesn't exactly eat anything helps to contribute to prevailing myths and ideas about the butterfly and even about beauty in humans. Women are often compared to butterflies or seek to capture some of the beauty of the butterfly in their appearance. The frailty of the butterfly is enhanced by the fact that it remains on a liquid diet throughout its adult life. This is symbolized in the dieting of women.


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