What Do Butterflies Eat?

So what do butterflies eat? The most obvious is butterfly nectar but to say everything else is also pretty spot-on to!

Flowers for Nectar

Seeing a butterfly flutter and land on random objects
usually is for good reason and makes for interesting conversation.

Butterfly food consists mostly of pollen and nectar sources from flowers. Also necessary in the butterfly diet are salts and minerals.

Each butterfly species has one or more preferred nutrient sources.  Depending on the species, the amount of nectar to mineral consumption may differ depending on need.

Minerals and salts are needed by both the female and male butterfly for reproduction.

Salts are passed from the male in the sperm packet to female and this helps egg production.

Nectar contains sugars, including monosaccharides (the

simplest form of sugar), water, and amino acids (proteins which aid in growth and repair in cells) which helps the female butterfly with 
egg production
. Nectar is also an immediate energy source and also
can become stored fat.

Flower and plant pollen comes in the form of fine or course powder and seeds. These are broken down by the butterfly and consumed in liquid form.

Other food sources include:

  • Tree Sap
  • Plant Juices that are sweet
  • Rotting Fruit
  • Dung - More often this is bird dung
  • Urine
  • Decaying flesh of animals (carrion)

The butterflies you are more likely to see dining on the above list include Anglewings, Emperors, Leafwings and Wood Nymphs.

It is very important to include a water source
in your butterfly garden plan.


Butterflies need a water source to find salts and minerals, which aid in sexual reproduction. This is called puddling.

Although both male and female butterflies require salts and minerals, it is especially important for the male for their sperm.

Once mating occurs and the sperm is transferred to the female for the butterfly egg. This will help to pass their butterfly genes successfully to the next generation.

Seeking Salts

When a butterfly lands on us (maybe others) it's because they seek the salts that we naturally produce.

They can be permanent water patches or placing containers where water will collect. A good idea is making a sand patch. The natural minerals along with the water is what butterflies seek.

Don't rely only on the rain drops that create temporary damp patches. This can be very inconsistent. When I was looking for creative water source ideas I saw these root planters. Make your own butterfly puddles by placing a small plastic plate with stones on branches. Place inconspicuously under various pollen sources. I like mine under my butterfly bushes.

Fountains are a good butterfly water source

Related Articles

Chemoreceptors - How butterflies taste.

Back from What do Butterflies Eat? to Food Web

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