What do Butterflies Eat

Adult butterflies eat (in fact, they drink) nectar from flowering plants, using their straw-like tongues. While most butterflies may eat from different nectar sources, some are picky eaters and like to feed on specific nectar-producing plants. There are species, such as Mourning Cloak and Question Mark butterflies, which do not drink nectar but get nutrition from organic matter like rotting fruits, tree sap, or animals.

What Do Butterflies Eat

How do Butterflies Eat

Butterflies have a long, straw-like structure, called a proboscis, which serves as their sucking mouth part. When butterflies eat, they extend their proboscis deep into the flower to drink nectar, but when it is not in use, the straw-like tube coils up. The butterflies also use their proboscis to sip water and juice from fruits.

What are the Food Sources of some Common Butterflies

Butterfly SpeciesFood Source
Black SwallowtailClover, thistle, milkweed, phlox
Painted LadyThistle, nettle
Blue MorphoFermented tree sap, rotting fruit, fungi
ApolloHouseleek, stonecrop
SkipperShrubs, trees, grasses, reeds
PeacockClover, dandelion, willow, rotten fruit, tree sap
Eastern Tiger SwallowtailMilkweed, honeysuckle, ironweed, lilac, phlox, wild cherry
CheckerspotWhite turtlehead
Common BlueSweet pea, grass pea
Karner BlueRaspberry, goldenrod, rock cress, butterflyweed
ZebraVerbena, Spanish needle, lantana
Purple EmperorAphid honeydew, tree sap
Orange-tipGarlic mustard, cuckooflower

Interesting Facts

  • Some butterfly species, such as Monarch butterfly, can live with having little or no food for five months.
  • Most butterflies are fond of fruits like grapefruits, oranges, strawberries, bananas, apples, peaches, cantaloupe, and nectarines.