Do Butterflies Eat Poop?

You often see butterflies feeding nectar from plants and flowers in your garden. However, these beautiful insects have some traits and behaviors that seem disgusting to humans, like eating poop and gathering around the feces and dung.

Do Butterflies Eat Poop? Butterflies eat poop and droppings of many animals and birds around their habitat to get nutrients, minerals, and salts, which provides them energy to fly, mate, and reproduce. Moreover, it helps them attract mates, defend themselves, keep their bodies hydrated, and aid in digestion due to the presence of beneficial bacteria. They can puddle over the feces of dogs, cows, horses, leopards, reptiles, amphibians, elephants, and birds.

They are involved in mud-puddling behavior to extract nutrients and minerals from the soil, feces, mud, and sand. It is one of the most common and widely seen behaviors of these innocent insects around their habitat.

Why do butterflies eat poop?

Butterflies are attracted to the animals’ poop and are often observed eating the feces whenever they get a chance to feed on them.

Provide nutrients and minerals

They need nutrients and minerals for various life activities and survival. They usually feed on flowers and plants, but these food sources do not provide all the minerals, amino acids, and salts they need for survival.

Therefore, they are involved in mud-puddling behavior to get all these essential nutrients from the animals and birds’ poop around their living sites.

Moreover, I read in research published a few years ago that male butterflies are more likely to show this behavior and eat the dung around their habitat compared to females.

The male species need more nutrients, salts, amino acids, and minerals than females for mating.

I was astounded to read that the male species transfer these nutrients to females with sperm packets when mating. The male species build the sperm packets by eating the poop and feeding on nectar. It also ensures successful reproduction and mating.

Get energy to fly and mate

Butterflies need a lot of energy to mate, find mating fellows, reproduce, and fly from one place to another. They do not only rely on the flower nectar but also search for other food sources.

Many salts, undigested fibers, waste materials from the food of animals and birds, fats, and other residues help them get enough energy to fly long distances and forage around their habitat.

Moreover, it also boosts their energy level and helps these insects find mates. In addition, the female species do not frequently show this behavior to puddle and feed on the poop, but they use the energy they get from the dung to find host plants for their eggs.

Attract mating partners

The smell of dung or poop of different animals and birds seems disgusting to us, but not to these flying insects because butterflies like this odor.

The male species puddle around the feces and eat it to get the odor of the poop, which helps them attract the females.

One of my friends often visits the tropical and subtropical forests to study and observe these insects and their way of living in these habitats.

Once, he told me that he saw a male butterfly feeding on the poop of a bear, and it flew and mated with the female after puddling around.

He observed the whole scenario and was surprised to see this because he had never seen these insects mating and using such techniques to attract each other.

Defense technique

They are small-sized insects and are prone to attacks from various birds and larger insects. They use different defense mechanisms to deter predators and escape the threatened areas.

For example, I was surprised to see a butterfly regurgitating the liquid it sucked from the poop of the dog when it encountered a spider around its habitat.

It flew away from this place, and the spider did not attack it. I asked my entomologist friend about this because I was curious to know about this behavior.

He said that it is their defense technique to escape predators because the stingy smell of pop will keep the predators away. They will get a chance to fly away from this place and protect themselves in alarming situations.

Help in hydration and digestion

They usually eat moist feces and dung and avoid the solid pellets-type feces of animals and insects.

They are attracted to the poops because they collect the moisture to keep themselves hydrated. Moreover, I studied in a research article that the feces and dung of many herbivore animals contain bacteria, which help them in digestion.

These bacteria are healthy for their stomach; therefore, they are found around the animal dung and birds’ poop.

In this research article, the team conducted this research said that they observed the butterflies hovering over the dung and rubbing their feet and head on it to keep themselves warm and get the moisture.

How do butterflies find and eat poop?

Butterflies can fly from one place to another and usually cover several meters to forage healthy food around their habitat.

Once, my colleague told me about how these insects find animal dung and various birds’ poop around their living sites because he worked with a wildlife center and entomology department for three years.

He said these flying insects have antennas on their head and chemoreceptors on their feet, which help them find food or puddling areas when they fly to different sites around their habitat.

He further explained that they do not forage like many animals and birds and do not rely on their eyesight because they do not have sharp vision.

They can only see the food sources near them and have a sharper sense of smell than eyesight. I was impressed with their foraging technique when he said that the chemoreceptors in their feet and antennas help them detect the nutrients from their smell.

He explained the feeding habits of these insects when I asked him how they eat the poop and dung. He said they actually do not eat it but only suck the moisture and liquid in these feces using their proboscis.

What type of butterflies like to eat poop?

Some of their species are more likely to eat the poop than others, and they can eat the dung of bears, dogs, leopards, elephants, horses, cows, mammals, reptiles, and many more around their habitat.

For example, monarch butterflies are likely to eat the feces of cows, horses, dogs, rabbits, and other mammals, while painted lady butterflies are seen puddling over the poops of crows, pigeons, hawks, owls, and many other birds.

Once, my brother told me that he studied in his entomology subject that swallowtail butterflies eat the feces of frogs and many other amphibians near the riversides.

Similarly, cabbage white and sulfur butterflies show this behavior and are usually found in areas with animal feces to feed on them and absorb the minerals.

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