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What do Butterflies Eat?

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Butterflies are some of the most beautiful insects in existence.  Their beautiful wings allow them to glide gracefully through the air while searching for something tasty to eat.  These animals undergo several stages in their life.  Their insect cycle includes an egg, larvae, pupae, and butterfly stage and they can look and act quite different in each of these stages.

Those beautiful bright colors you see on their wings are not by chance.  They are polymorphic animals and use their wings to either intimidate their prey or to blend into their environment.

There are over 20,000 species of butterfly identified all over the world.  In their adult butterfly stage, they don’t eat nearly as much or as often as they did as caterpillars.  Here is a quick look at some of the top foods these animals love to consume.

What do Butterflies Eat?

There might be thousands of types of butterflies but most of these different species still seem to prefer the same main food types.  In most cases, butterflies need to consume liquids that contain a lot of nutrients.  Here is a quick look at the main foods these insects enjoy eating.


Nectar is a sweet sap that is produced by flowering plants.  Just about all species of butterfly enjoy drinking nectar.  But some species of butterfly enjoy certain flower species more than others.

Tree sap

While nectar is a good source of energy, butterflies also need other foods so they can get other needed nutrients like nitrogen, salts, and amino acids.  Tree sap is a very common food source for butterflies.  These insects will swarm around tree wounds caused by birds like woodpeckers.

The sap of overripe or rotten fruits

Fruits are always a good food source for butterflies that need lots of liquids to stay hydrated.  Butterflies cannot bite into hard fruits but they can suck some juice from soft overripe or rotten fruits.

Moisture from mud

Butterflies tend to swarm around puddles after rains because water puddles or mud puddles are a good food source for these insects.  While sucking up moisture from mud, butterflies also absorb lots of metal, salt, nitrogen, protein, and amino acids.

Sweat and tears

These insects are often attracted by scents of sweat and tears because they need to consume lots of salt to stay nourished.  Sweat and tears are rich in salt and also acts as a good source to stay hydrated.  You may think that a butterfly likes you when it chooses you to sit on but in truth, it simply views you as a tasty snack to eat.


Lots of butterfly species love to drink urine.  Some species will even consume their own body fluids.  They often sit on dried urine patches to absorb some of the minerals deposited into these areas via urination.


One of the less-admirable food sources for these beautiful and graceful insects is blood.  Butterflies will sit down on bloody puddles to consume leftover traces of blood.  They feed on traces of protein and iron when they visit blood patches on the ground.


One of their not-so-graceful trades is their ability to consume poop.  From time to time, you might notice a beautiful butterfly sitting on a heap of dung.  They absorb moisture and lots of nutrients from animal manure.

Decaying flesh

Rotting flesh is a big favorite for various species of butterfly.  They prefer rotting meat to fresh meat because they don’t have any teeth and need to lick up the rotting flesh.  As with blood, decayed flesh contains lots of nutrients that these insects enjoy eating.

Diet Variations

Butterflies cannot consume solid foods and they need lots of liquids to stay hydrated.  Their constant need for nutrients is exactly what drives them to revolting food sources such as rotten flesh, poop, and urine.  Some butterflies may also visit human foods and feed on jellies.

How To Feed Butterflies

These animals are fairly easy to feed.  All you need to do is leave a suitable food source out or create a mud puddle.  If there are butterflies in the region, they will be attracted.  If you want to lure more butterflies to your garden then you should grow lots of flowering plants and create a constant muddy puddle in your garden.

What do Butterflies Eat in the Wild?

In the wild, butterflies feed on all sorts of liquids they can find.  These usually include foods like nectar, mud, urine, poop, carcasses, and blood.  Most butterfly species are not very picky about the type of food they consume at all.

What do Butterflies Eat in Captivity?

To feed a butterfly in captivity, you can offer it water on a sponge.  You can also offer it overripe fruits, lots of flowers, muddy puddles, fresh pet feces, or decayed flesh.  You might be grossed out by these foods but your pet butterfly will be quite thrilled as long as it has a variety of ‘tasty’ foods to feed on.

What do Baby Butterflies Eat?

Baby butterflies are caterpillars.  Butterflies go through four stages in their life cycle; the egg stage, the worm stage, the pupae stage, and the butterfly stage.

Different types of worms or caterpillars can have different types of diets.  Most of them are however herbivore animals that can cause a lot of damage to crops.  Caterpillars or worms enjoy eating soft green leaves, fruits, and vegetables.  They enjoy eating all sorts of foods such as agricultural crops, trees, bushes, and a variety of native plants.

How often do Butterflies Eat?

Most butterflies only consume liquids but there are some that don’t feed at all as adult butterflies.  Their sole purpose is to find a mate and reproduce before they die.

Butterflies that do eat, don’t consume nearly as much as they did in the caterpillar stage.  Microscopic nutrients that they absorb along with moisture are enough to sustain their bodies.  They do however usually eat quite often.  Most butterfly species will drink several times throughout the day.

Do Butterflies Eat Meat or Blood?

Yes, butterflies do absorb nutrients from rotten meat and blood.  They also need protein and minerals like salts and iron and as such are quite fond of rotten flesh.

Do Butterflies Drink Water?

Butterflies do absorb water from muddy puddles along with other nutrients but they are not quite as likely to drink directly from a water source.   They also get moisture from other sources like fruits.

Do Butterflies Eat Poop?

Yes, these insects might be delicate and beautiful but they are also quite disgusting.  Animal poop contains a lot of nutrients and minerals that butterflies need.  Minerals like salt, iron, protein, and many others are found in poop.

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