What Butterflies Eat

You probably already know that providing food is an excellent strategy to get more butterflies in your yard. What do butterflies consume, though?

Mostly flower nectar is what adult butterflies consume. Additionally, they may discover supplies of nectar from fruit, vegetable, and plant blooms. Butterflies may also obtain energy by consuming sugar water, fruit juice, tree sap, fungus, and animal-derived organic materials. Male butterflies will sip dirty water to obtain the salt and minerals they require.

You can now get a general notion of the kind of food that butterflies will consume from that. But perhaps it raised a few more queries for you?

You may be asking what I mean when I say “organic stuff.”

You can learn all you need to know about the food of butterflies from this guide. We’ll also go into some of your concerns concerning butterfly feeding habits.

What do butterflies like to eat?

The food of a butterfly varies by species. Common Brimstone and the majority of moth species are native European butterfly species that eat nectar. Their so-called proboscis, which functions like a straw and folds up in between meals, is the portion of their mouth that they use to consume.

Butterflies are an important pollinator for many plants because of their ability to eat on a variety of plants that are inaccessible to other useful garden insects, such as bees.

Few butterfly species overwinter in the UK; most species hunt for food in March and April. However, between November and February, you could see a variety of insects, such as the Twenty-plume and Red-green carpet moths, as well as the Brimstone, Small tortoiseshell, and Peacock butterflies.

In the winter, butterflies often hibernate. However, these unique butterfly species graze when the weather is particularly warm.

Every type of butterfly and moth has a unique diet. Some species, like the Emperor moth (Saturnia), have stunted proboscises as a result of not eating anything throughout their brief lives.

Other butterflies prefer to eat fruit that has fallen to the ground or plant fluids. Some even consume the honeydew that aphids exude. Exotic butterfly species may devour blood, sweat, or even tears in tropical areas! Thankfully, this is not typical in Europe.

Do Moths and Butterflies Eat the Same Things?

Yes, however there are some variations. The harvester butterfly (Feniseca tarquinius), for instance, may consume aphids. The only butterfly that can consume other insects is this one. Heliconius charithonia, a zebra butterfly, has the ability to gather and consume pollen. There are no moths that consume pollen or other insects.

They all eat in various ways as well. A moth often hovers over its food, but a butterfly will sit or rest on it.

How Butterflies Eat

A proboscis, a long, straw-like mouthpiece, is used by adult butterflies to consume.

These mouthpieces are fragile and sensitive, and they can only pierce very delicate surfaces. This makes it possible for them to collect sweet and salty liquids from fruit, flowers, and open liquid sources like puddles.

These mouthpieces are incapable of being used by butterflies to chew any kind of solid food. Therefore, a butterfly’s diet consists solely of liquids.

Typically, these fluids are rich in minerals like salts or amino acids to keep the butterflies healthy as well as sugar for energy.

The proboscis of a butterfly coils up while it isn’t feeding.

Only as caterpillars are butterflies able to consume solid food components. They have a mouth that can bite and devour plant materials.

What Do Butterflies Drink?

Butterflies use water to stay hydrated. The liquids in their dietary sources will be their primary source of hydration.

To stay cool in the heat, butterflies will look for additional water sources. This is when the puddling behaviors are frequently observed, especially after rainstorms.

To keep butterflies hydrated, you don’t need to give them any simple water. They just require access to plants, fruit, or sugar water for hydration.

Can you feed butterflies?

The ideal meal for butterflies is often stuff that they can gather on their own. The greatest place to feed a butterfly is in a vibrant flower meadow or in a garden brimming with plants that attract butterflies.

A little snack might benefit a butterfly that is obviously weary. Put a clean sponge in a solution of one part sugar to four parts water, and then leave it for a butterfly to use its proboscis to suck up the mixture.

Keep sugar water away from plates and dishes. The liquid may adhere the butterfly’s wings together if it gets on them. Instead, reach for an orange.

In order to prevent the extra fruit juice from sticking to the butterflies’ wings, chop the fruit into centimeter-thick slices and spread them out on a kitchen towel. The butterflies will quickly consume the sweet fruit juice if you wait a bit!

How to Find What Butterflies Eat?

A list of numerous well-known butterfly species and their favored nectar sources may be found below. Remember that butterflies will consume nectar from a variety of sources.

In fact, you could discover that butterflies choose a particular type of nectar plant in one region of the nation while favoring a different nectar plant in a different region. Even between gardens, butterfly preferences might vary, possibly as a result of alterations in soil types, pH, etc.

The Family Butterfly Book by Rick Mikula is an excellent resource for figuring out which nectar plants for butterflies thrive in your region. There is a section on host plants, nectar plants, and butterflies.

Additionally, it is divided up into US states and Canadian provinces, including Hawaii and Alaska. It has a wealth of knowledge about rearing butterflies and is nicely illustrated. In addition to this book, I also have Rick Cech and Guy Tudor’s excellent Butterflies of the East Coast, which is a book specifically about my area.

How can I attract butterflies to my garden?

These are some of the best recommendations for luring butterflies to your garden:

Butterfly nectar may be purchased, but it’s incredibly simple to produce your own at home. With only two materials, you may create your own butterfly nectar solution to entice butterflies! Although there are many other recipes available online, the optimal ratio is 4 parts water to 1 part sugar.

4 cups of water and 1 cup of sugar can be measured out using a small cup or mug. This combination must be brought to a boil in a saucepan until the sugar is dissolved, after which it must be allowed to cool.

You may add it to a handmade butterfly feeder once it has cooled. Learn how to create one here. In little time at all, butterflies will swarm to your gorgeous masterpiece!

Other options for feeding butterflies include leaving out overripe, mashed-up fruit such as bananas, melons, oranges, and berries. The better, the softer and mushier! To make it simpler for the butterflies to eat, add some water.

Be cautious, though, since this delicious food might also attract other insects like wasps and flies. Ensure that the fruit is kept far from any windows that you often leave open.

You could also wish to provide a shallow dish of water in your yard with some stones so that butterflies can land on it and drink when the weather is very warm.

Create a “sun spot” in your yard since butterflies like relaxing in the sun. Consider placing some big, flat boulders or stones in your garden’s most sunny areas.

Plant trees: You may get beautiful fruit from trees like crab apple trees, pear trees, or cherry trees, as well as butterflies. Additionally, these trees produce exquisite blooms. Besides sap-producing trees like oak and willow, butterflies also enjoy other types of plants.

Learn about the butterflies in your area. While some butterflies travel to different locations throughout the world, others are confined to a single location. Find out whether butterflies are native to your area and whether they have favorite plants by looking in books or online.

Avoid using pesticides since they may damage our insect buddies.

Less often mow the lawn because butterflies enjoy a somewhat disorganized landscape. They are drawn to tall grass, clovers, and dandelions. Consider allowing a tiny area of your garden that you rarely visit to get a little more wild. Stinging nettles are popular among butterflies, but they may be painful to touch, so only let them grow in your yard if it’s safe to do so.

Ivy: In the fall, what do butterflies eat? Lucky you if your house has any ivy growing on it! Butterflies rely on ivy as a major supply of nectar in the fall. In September and October, most other plants will have completed blooming, so keeping some ivy around can be quite beneficial for hungry butterflies.

Create a “puddling pool”: Some butterflies enjoy congregating in nutrient-rich puddles to sip the water. Salts and amino acids are among the substances found in soil and mud that support the health of butterflies. A butterfly puddling pool may be created in a pan by combining a little dirt, water, and sometimes some stones. Place it among some flowers in a shaded spot, and keep a watch out for flying creatures! To ensure that the butterflies have plenty of water to drink, just keep it moist.

Which plants provide food for butterflies?

You will need a lot of plants in your yard to draw in a lot of butterflies. Alfalfa (Medicago sativa), red clover (Trifolium pratense), and thistles are all favorites of painted lady butterflies (Carduus acanthoides). On the other side, purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria) and plants in the genus Centaurea are favorites of common brimstone butterflies.

Hawk moths, on the other hand, have lengthy probosci that they employ to consume the covert nectar of phlox and hedge bindweed (Calystegia sepium) (Phlox). Additionally, almost any blossom will be a meal for the silver Y moth!

Several kinds of butterflies prefer plants including common heather (Calluna vulgaris), dock (Rumex), and dandelion (Taraxacum). However, a ready-to-use seed mixture is ideal rather than creating your own plant mixture.

Additionally, you may raise perennial plants to draw butterflies. The most well-liked varieties are sloe and willow (Salix) (Prunus spinosa). Butterflies also enjoy the nectar of lilacs and blueberries (Vaccinium myrtillus) (Buddleja). Overall, more butterflies will visit your garden if it has more variety.

A butterfly will undoubtedly want some liquid after all that meal. However, what do butterflies consume? In actuality, liquid nectar and other plant fluids provide butterflies with the majority of their nutritional needs. Butterflies just sometimes visit little ponds, perhaps to balance their mineral intake or on especially hot days.

Nectar Plants

The list of common and/or well-known backyard garden butterflies and their preferred nectar sources follows. My observations have shown that butterflies are not very particular about their nectar plants.

For instance, the purple Homestead Verbena in my yard is one of the primary plants that I have observed Black Swallowtails visiting. It is not mentioned as a favorite nectar plant of Black Swallowtails anywhere (that I have discovered).

Another illustration of different behavior is the continual presence of sulphurs and numerous other butterflies in my lantana. Also absent from their list of favored nectar plants is lantana. The key is to remember that these are only suggestions.

In your yard, you’ll discover a wide range of flora and colors that butterflies prefer. Enjoy the variety and try new things!

What if I don’t have a garden?

Try a window box instead of a garden if you don’t have one. On a patio or balcony, using flowers like marigolds or lavender for your window box might assist to attract delightful winged guests.

You might want to share some of your newly acquired butterfly knowledge with your class if you’ve liked learning the answers to questions like “What do butterflies eat?” and “What flowers attract butterflies?” You may check out these wonderful butterfly materials below:

Do All Flowers Provide Nectar?

Not all flowers have nectar available to butterflies. As a result, nectar is only made from specific plants. The nectar’s quality is another thing to take into account.

The nectar that migratory Monarchs require is provided by native thistles and goldenrods, which are powerhouses of nectar. It’s crucial to provide nectar all season long. Think about a variety of plants, some of which bloom in the spring and others of which bloom in the summer or the fall.

Online nurseries provide a variety of plant and seed varieties for butterfly nectar. For images, details, and sources, click on the plants that are linked below. It will usually be simpler to pick up some plants, like lantanas, at your neighborhood nursery.

Final Thoughts

You’ll notice that butterflies mostly consume nectar. That implies that providing a lot of nectar-producing flowers in your yard is the greatest approach to get them there. The next best thing to put out at a butterfly feeder is homemade butterfly nectar or bits of fruit.

If you have any kind of host plant nearby, butterflies will undoubtedly visit your yard in search of something to eat. Giving the butterflies in your region a place where there are muddy puddles after a thunderstorm or after watering the lawn is a surefire method to ensure their success.

There are so many butterflies, and they eat such a wide range of things. They enjoy eating, even some dubious stuff. You may be sure that your yard contains anything that they enjoy eating.