Why Do Butterflies Stop Flying?

Butterflies are one of the insects in the Arthropods group that can fly and cover long distances. They move from one place to another due to their flying capabilities if they lose habitat, do not find food sources, and a sudden change in the climate.

Why Do Butterflies Stop Flying? Butterflies can stop flying because of wet or broken wings, cold weather, parasitic infections, mating, playing dead to fool the predators, and damaged scales on their wings.

They look attractive when flying from one place to another with colorful patterns on their bodies. Some people think there is something wrong with these insects when they stay in one place. Therefore, it is better to observe them carefully and help as much as possible. 

Why would butterflies stop flying?

Butterflies can stop their flights and stay in one place or motionless for short or long time periods. They are more beautiful to watch when taking long flights and using different flying patterns.

Wet wings

Their wings can get wet during rainfall or when someone waters the garden where they are feeding or making habitats. The water drop is not as lightweight as we think for these sensitive insects because their wings are fragile and possess less weight than other body parts, such as the abdomen.

They cannot take the risk of distant flights when their wings are wet with rainwater. They prefer to dry them and then fly to other places.

They stay on the tree leaves and branches until it stops raining and the water on their wings evaporates. The water drops make their wings heavy, and they cannot manage the flight in their air due to air pressure.

One of my friends used an experimental cage for butterflies to observe their behavior under different conditions. They held on to the cage bars and corners when he showered water like raindrops, and he noticed they did not take a chance to fly when their wings were wet.

Broken wings

A broken wing is one of the significant reasons for these insects to stop flying and remain motionless on the ground or under flower plants.

Wings are essential body parts designed to glide and fly in the air. They are fragile and can break in heavy winds, hailing, and rainfall.

They do not flap their wings during a flight but contract their bodies and use clapping and cupping to push the air and produce a thrust to balance their bodies. 

It is not possible if any of their wings are broken because both wings are used to clap them together and fly.

They cannot fly with a broken wing and probably die if a predator attacks the poor insect in injured condition. 

They cannot fight the large predators with broken wings or injured states; therefore, wing injury is not safe for butterflies and takes away their ability to fly and escape predators.

Cold weather

Butterflies are cold-blooded insects and cannot maintain their body temperature on their own. They depend on external sources to regulate the internal temperature.

They usually do not fly in cold weather or when winter arrives because they need the energy to take flights, and energy consumption can cause heat loss from their bodies.

The metabolism works fast when they are involved in any activity, like flying. Therefore, they stop flying or reduce their motion in cold weather.

Moreover, some species can hibernate in winter and eat much food before cold weather arrives. Most of their species spend winters in caterpillars or chrysalis stage and do not fly, while some pass the cold weather in adulthood and inactive state. 

Camouflage to avoid predators

Butterflies have colorful patterns on their wings. For example, many species have the same color as the whole body, while others have multiple shades.

They use their colorful bodies and appearance to camouflage themselves in the surroundings and avoid predators. 

They stop flying when camouflaging on the flowers because predators can detect them if they take flights or glide from one place to another.

They keep their wings closed and align their bodies in a specific position on the leaves and flowers to avoid being noticed and prevent predator attacks.

Lose scales on wings

Butterflies have scales on their wings, which are actually the protein layers. These colorful patterns or the powdery substance on their wings help them take long flights and strengthen their muscles.

The damage to these scales affects their flights, and they cannot fly properly. The powder layers help them to have more efficient flight patterns and prevent damage to the wings.

They cannot flap their wings properly with fewer scales; therefore, they can stop flying if they have damaged wings and scales because taking long flights in such conditions is risky. 

Parasite infection

Ophryocystis elektroscirrha (O.E) is a parasite that usually infects butterflies in the caterpillar stage and damages the organs. It is a single-cell organism that keeps on multiplying inside the host body.

In most cases, the insect dies and cannot fly well if it survives this infection. These diseases reduce the flying capabilities of butterflies, and they avoid taking flight.

They feel weak and cannot fly because they need energy and strength to move from one place to another. The ill butterfly finds it difficult to make local or long-distance migrations, especially monarch butterflies, get wing deformities and die soon.

During mating

Butterflies fly from one place to another to find mates and chase the female fellows to get their consent or attract them with their aerobat.

Once they find a suitable mate and the female is ready to mate, both species land in a safe place, such as trees or flowers.

They position themselves in their particular mating posture and do not fly for some time until they complete the mating process or exchange the pheromones.

They do not remain still for a long time, and the female flies away after mating to find food sources in the surroundings. The duration they stop moving or flying varies with the environmental conditions in the surroundings.

Playing dead

They are sensitive and beautiful insects and sometimes act sharp to escape dangerous or unfavorable conditions.

Some species can play dead to fool the predators, as they stay in one position and do not fly if they observe potential threats around their living places.

For example, I observed a Mourning cloak butterfly this evening, and they play dead when they noticed the wasps and rodents near the flower plants.

What happens if a butterfly cannot fly?

There are various problems that a butterfly can face if it cannot fly or move from one place to another. They are more prone to predator attacks if they stop taking flights.

The inability to fly restricts them from finding nectar-rich flowers, and they can die of starvation and dehydration. They lack nutrients in their bodies if no food resources are available.

Moreover, they cannot find mates if they stop taking flight to other places, and the chances of genetic diversity decrease among each species.

Anyone can step on the motionless insect if they are sitting on the grass in a park or garden. Therefore, it is difficult for them to survive without flying.

What to do with butterflies that cannot fly?

It is better to provide food and water to the butterfly so it gets the energy to survive. It is not necessary that the butterflies are injured or sick if they do not fly. Therefore, observe them for some time and then take action.

You can call the entomologist if these insects are injured and remain motionless for a long time because they have better experience in dealing with such situations and handle them carefully.

Provide them with safe shelter so the predators cannot attack them until the rescue time arrives. Moreover, you can offer sugar juice to these insects and keep your pets away from them.

Related Articles:

Can Butterflies Kill Spiders?