It is almost hard to even imagine such a beautiful and magical creature actually eating but the question, “What do butterflies eat?”, is a logical question.

An adult butterfly drinks nectar that comes from flowers by using their tongues that act like straws.  Although most drink from beautiful blossoms, there are some that eat from rotting animal matter, tree sap and other forms of organic matter.

Almost all butterfly caterpillars eat some form of plant matter.  Most will feed on leaves but a few will eat seeds and then there are those that enjoy specialty flowers for their diet.  An example would be the Pearl Crescent caterpillar who will only eat asters.  Although butterfly caterpillars feed off plants, there are few that are considered an agricultural pest.

There are some species that require sodium which is why they may be attracted to human sweat so they land on people.  They will also from time to time visit animal dung, carcasses or rotting fruit to get their nutrients and minerals.  So, what do butterflies eat?  Plants, flowers, seeds, tree sap and rotting organic and animal matter.

The Difference Between Butterflies And Moths

Moths and butterflies are related and share a lot of the same characteristics.  They both have scales all over their wings.  Most butterflies are beautiful and colorful and are only active during the day while moths are rather boring in color and are active at night.  They can also be distinguished apart by their antennas.  The antennas on a butterfly are similar in appearance to a golf club and the antennas on a moth are tapered at the end.

Butterfly Migration

Surviving cold winters can be quite challenging for a butterfly.  When the weather begins to break in the spring, butterflies that have migrated to Southern portions of the United States and Mexico begin to fly to the Northern area so these regions become repopulated.  Where exactly each species of butterfly migrate to is unknown.

In locations that see freezing temperatures in the winter, it is important that a minimum of one stage of the butterfly’s life must be able to resist freezing.  This usually means that pupa stage is the life cycle seeing the winter.  There are those however such as Anglewings and Tortoiseshells that see the winter as an adult and hibernate in crevices of buildings or holes in trees.  There are rarely any species that go through a winter as eggs.

Life Cycle

Many people think that the butterfly has a short life but they can actually live up to a year in their adult stage.  The eggs have a hard shell that has a coating of wax that keeps it from drying out while the larva is developing.  The eggs are attached with a glue to a leaf.  This stage usually lasts a few weeks and almost always occurs close to the beginning of the winter.

Caterpillars eat plants, are always hungry and are in constant search for food.  Most are herbivores but there are some species that feed on insects.  They go through stages called instars to reach maturity.

The wings are not able to be seen by viewing larva from the outside but if you were to dissect the larva you would find them.  The tiny wings begin to increase in size drastically after the larva goes through its last instar.  The veins then become developed and patterns begin to form bringing beauty to the butterfly.  Initially these wings are very fragile and flexible but within a few hours the cuticle joins the wings so hard that they can be picked up without damaging the wings.

Butterflies are a symbolic, complex insect that represent not only beauty but also love, change, rebirth and good luck.