Have you ever wondered what butterflies eat and drink? These delicate creatures have fascinating feeding habits and a unique diet that sustains them throughout their life cycle.

Butterflies have a long tongue, called a proboscis, which they can curl and uncurl to drink through like a straw. They primarily have a liquid diet, mainly consisting of sweet nectar from flowers. Some butterflies also enjoy fully ripened and rotting fruit. They can drink from other moist substances like puddles, wet gravel, sweat, scat, and even tears to gather salts and minerals. Butterflies also frequently visit sponge pads soaked with simulated nectar made from honey and water.

Key Takeaways:

  • Butterflies primarily consume sweet nectar from flowers.
  • Some butterflies also feed on fully ripened and rotting fruit.
  • They can obtain salts and minerals from various sources, including puddles, sweat, and tears.
  • Butterflies are attracted to sponge pads soaked with simulated nectar.
  • These beautiful insects have a long tongue called a proboscis to drink liquids.

How do butterflies eat?

Butterflies have a unique way of obtaining their food. They use their long, straw-like mouthpart called a proboscis to extract and drink liquids. The proboscis acts like a flexible straw that the butterfly can curl and uncurl to reach its food sources. This specialized structure allows butterflies to consume liquid food and prevents them from being able to eat solid food.

The Butterfly’s Liquid Diet

Butterflies rely on a liquid diet for their nutrition. The liquids they consume are primarily sweet in nature and provide them with the energy they need to fly and perform their daily activities. The main food source for butterflies is nectar, which is a sugary substance produced by flowers. When butterflies visit flowers, they use their proboscis to suck up the nectar from deep within the flower.

In addition to nectar, butterflies may also consume other liquid substances for nutrition. They are known to drink from moist sources such as puddles, wet gravel, and even the moist surface of leaves. These sources provide them with essential minerals and salts that they need for their survival.

The Butterfly’s Drinking Habits

In their search for food, butterflies exhibit specific drinking habits. They are attracted to flowers that are brightly colored and have a strong aroma. This attraction is due to the flowers’ vibrant colors and sweet smell, which act as signals for the presence of nectar. Butterflies have evolved to be highly sensitive to these sensory cues, allowing them to locate their food sources more efficiently.

“Butterflies use their highly sensitive antennae, legs, and other body parts to smell and locate their favorite plants. They are attracted to colorful and sweet-smelling flowers, choosing feeding spots near flowers with warm locations and plenty of sunlight.”

Butterflies also have a preference for feeding in sunny areas. They are more likely to be found fluttering around flowers that are exposed to ample sunlight, as the warmth aids in the process of nectar production. These preferences for color, scent, and sunlight ensure that butterflies are able to find the most nutritious food sources to sustain their livelihood.

Through their feeding habits, butterflies play a crucial role in pollination, as they transfer pollen from one flower to another while collecting nectar. This symbiotic relationship between butterflies and flowers is essential for the reproduction and survival of many plant species.

In conclusion, butterflies have a fascinating way of eating, relying on a liquid diet and using their proboscis to extract and drink sweet nectar from flowers. Their drinking habits are guided by their sensitivity to color, scent, and sunlight, ensuring they find the most nutritious food sources available. By understanding how butterflies eat, we gain a deeper appreciation for these delicate and beautiful creatures and their vital role in nature.

How do butterflies find food?

Butterflies have developed exceptional sensory adaptations to locate their food sources. They rely on their highly sensitive antennae, legs, and other body parts to detect and navigate towards their favorite plants.

One of the primary ways butterflies find food is by being attracted to colorful and sweet-smelling flowers. They have a keen sense of vision and are drawn to vibrant hues, especially shades of red, orange, pink, and purple. The distinctive colors of flowers act as beacons for butterflies, guiding them to their feeding spots.

In addition to visual cues, butterflies are also sensitive to scent. They can detect the enticing aromas emitted by flowers, which contain the sweet nectar they seek. The combination of bright colors and enticing scents creates a powerful attractant that helps butterflies find their food sources.

Butterflies also exhibit feeding habits that are influenced by environmental factors. They prefer feeding spots that provide warm locations and plenty of sunlight, as these conditions enhance the production of nectar in flowers.

By strategically choosing feeding locations near flowers with optimal conditions, butterflies maximize their access to food and ensure a steady supply of nectar. This helps them sustain their energy levels and continue their important role as pollinators in ecosystems.

Overall, the remarkable sensory abilities of butterflies, coupled with their attraction to colorful and sweet-smelling flowers, enable them to find the food sources they need for survival. Understanding how butterflies locate their food can help us create inviting environments in our gardens and landscapes to support these beautiful insects.

Common things that butterflies eat

When it comes to their diet, butterflies have a few favorite food sources that they rely on for their nourishment. The most common and essential food source for adult butterflies is sweet nectar from flowers. Nectar from flowering plants makes up the bulk of their diet, providing them with the necessary sugars and energy to thrive.

In addition to flowers, butterflies are also attracted to other food sources that offer them vital nutrients. Some of these sources include:

  • Rotting fruit: Butterflies have a taste for fully ripened and rotting fruit. The sweet juices of these decaying fruits provide them with additional sustenance.
  • Tree sap: Certain trees, such as oaks, willows, and chokecherries, produce sap that attracts many butterfly species. The sap not only serves as a source of water but also provides butterflies with sugars and essential minerals.
  • Sugar water from butterfly feeders: Many butterfly enthusiasts use sugar water to attract and feed butterflies in their gardens. Homemade butterfly nectar, made with a mixture of sugar, soy sauce, and water, can be placed in special feeders to provide a supplementary food source.

These food sources ensure that butterflies have a diverse diet, offering them the necessary nutrients, sugars, and minerals for their survival. By providing a variety of options in your garden, you can attract and support a wide range of butterfly species.

Flower Nectar

butterfly nectaring on a flower

Flower nectar plays a vital role in the diet of adult butterflies. These delicate creatures are irresistibly drawn to vibrant colored flowers, where they feed on the sweet nectar produced by these blossoms. Nectar from flowering plants serves as a rich source of essential sugars, which provide the energy necessary for butterflies to thrive and sustain their active lifestyles.

Butterflies have evolved to become experts at locating and accessing nectar-filled flowers. Their keen sense of sight helps them identify flowers with vibrant colors that stand out in their environment. These striking colors act as visual cues, guiding butterflies to the abundant food sources they require.

Once a butterfly lands on a flower, it will use its long and flexible proboscis, or tongue, to extract the delectable nectar from the flower’s depths. The proboscis acts as a straw-like appendage, allowing the butterfly to reach the nectar while avoiding contact with the flower’s reproductive structures.

As the butterfly delicately sips the sweet nectar, it inadvertently performs a crucial role in the pollination process. While feeding, the butterfly’s body comes into contact with the flower’s reproductive parts, inadvertently picking up pollen and transferring it to the next flower it visits. This inadvertent but essential act of pollination ensures the continued survival and reproduction of flowering plants.

Flower nectar is not only a source of energy for butterflies but also a vital reservoir of nutrients. The nectar contains essential sugars that provide quick bursts of energy for flight and other activities. Additionally, the nectar contains trace amounts of vitamins and minerals that contribute to the overall health and vitality of butterflies.

To attract and support butterflies in your garden, it is crucial to cultivate a diverse array of flowering plants that offer a continuous source of nectar throughout the season. Creating a butterfly-friendly garden with a variety of colorful and nectar-rich flowers will not only provide sustenance for these enchanting insects but also contribute to the overall beauty and biodiversity of your outdoor space.

Benefits of Flower Nectar for Butterflies:
Provides energy for flight and other activities
Contains trace amounts of vitamins and minerals
Acts as a vital source of nutrition
Contributes to pollination and the reproduction of flowering plants

Fruit juice from rotting fruit

When it comes to attracting butterflies, rotting fruit is a delicious and enticing food source. As fruit falls off trees or plants and begins to decay, it releases a sugary juice that butterflies find irresistible. Bananas, apples, and pears are just a few examples of rotting fruit that can be placed in your garden to attract these beautiful creatures.

Rotting fruit serves as a valuable food source for butterflies, offering them a rich and nutritious meal. By providing rotting fruit in your garden, you can create a feeding spot that will attract a wide variety of butterfly species.

Benefits of providing rotting fruit:

  • Attracts a diverse range of butterfly species.
  • Provides essential sugars and nutrients for their diet.
  • Encourages butterflies to visit and stay in your garden.

By incorporating rotting fruit as a food source in your garden, you can play a vital role in supporting butterfly populations and creating a thriving habitat for these delicate creatures.

FruitButterfly Attraction
BananasAttracts swallowtails, sulphurs, and skippers.
ApplesAttracts hairstreaks, fritillaries, and admirals.
PearsAttracts painted ladies, commas, and crescents.

Tree sap

butterfly feeding on tree sap

Tree sap serves as a vital food source for adult butterflies, providing them with water, sugar, and essential minerals. Certain tree species, including oaks, willows, and chokecherries, attract numerous butterfly species due to the sap they produce.

In addition to flowers, butterflies seek out tree sap as a supplementary source of nutrition. The sap offers a high sugar content, ensuring butterflies have the energy they need for sustenance and flight. By extracting sap from trees, butterflies supplement their liquid diet and fulfill their nutritional requirements.

Tree sap also plays a role in attracting butterflies to specific locations. The sweet scent emitted by sap draws butterflies towards trees, creating a gathering place for these beautiful insects. It is common to witness clusters of butterflies congregating around trees emitting sap.

“Tree sap is like a sweet elixir for butterflies, providing them with the essential sustenance they need to thrive and survive. It’s amazing to observe how these delicate creatures are drawn to the enticing aroma of sap.”

– Butterfly enthusiast

To encourage butterflies in your garden or natural habitat, consider planting trees that are known to produce sap and attract these magnificent creatures. Oaks, willows, and chokecherries are excellent choices. By providing butterfly-friendly environments, we can contribute to the preservation and conservation of butterfly populations.

Trees that attract butterflies with sap

Tree SpeciesButterfly Species
OakEastern Tailed-Blue, Orange Sulphur, Mourning Cloak
WillowRed-Spotted Admiral, Mourning Cloak, Tiger Swallowtail
ChokecherrySpring Azure, Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, Red Admiral

Sugar Water from Butterfly Feeders

One popular method people use to attract and provide food for butterflies is by using butterfly feeders. These feeders can be filled with sugar water, which serves as a substitute for natural nectar. Creating a homemade butterfly nectar is a simple and cost-effective way to nourish these delicate creatures.

To make your own butterfly nectar, mix equal parts white granulated sugar and water in a saucepan. Heat the mixture until the sugar dissolves completely, then allow it to cool. Some people also add a small amount of soy sauce to the mixture, as it contains essential minerals that promote butterfly health and nutrition. Once the nectar is ready, it can be poured into a butterfly feeder.

Butterfly feeders come in various designs, including hanging feeders and dish feeders. They are typically made of glass or plastic and have feeding stations for butterflies to access the sugar water. It’s important to place the feeder in a location that is easily visible to butterflies and offers a safe feeding environment.

By placing a butterfly feeder filled with sugar water in your garden or outdoor space, you can attract and provide a reliable food source for butterflies. This helps support their nutrition and survival, especially during times when natural nectar sources may be scarce.

Sugar Water Recipe for Butterfly Nectar
  • 1 cup white granulated sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce (optional)
  1. In a saucepan, heat the water and granulated sugar over medium heat until the sugar dissolves completely.
  2. Remove the saucepan from heat and stir in the soy sauce (optional).
  3. Allow the mixture to cool completely.
  4. Pour the cooled nectar into a butterfly feeder.
  5. Place the butterfly feeder in a convenient and visible location for butterflies.

Providing sugar water from butterfly feeders is a simple way to attract and nourish butterflies in your outdoor space. It not only helps supplement their diet but also offers an opportunity to observe these enchanting creatures up close.


Butterflies have a diverse diet, consuming a variety of food sources to meet their nutritional needs. The main staple of their diet is sweet nectar from flowers, providing them with energy and sugars. They are attracted to colorful and fragrant flowers, making them an essential part of any butterfly garden.

In addition to nectar, butterflies also feed on other sources such as rotting fruit and tree sap. These provide them with additional nutrients, sugars, and minerals necessary for their survival. Rotting fruit, such as bananas and apples, can be left out to attract butterflies to your garden.

Furthermore, homemade sugar water from butterfly feeders can also serve as a substitute for natural nectar. This mixture of sugar, soy sauce, and water can be placed in a butterfly feeder to attract and nourish butterflies. It’s important to provide a variety of food sources to support the diverse dietary needs of butterflies and ensure their presence in your yard.

To create an enticing butterfly habitat, it is crucial to maintain a garden with colorful flowers and maintain a variety of food sources. Butterflies are also attracted to mud, urine, sweat, tears, rotting animals, animal dung, other insects like aphids, honeydew, and pollen. By incorporating these elements, you can create a welcoming environment that supports the butterfly population in your area.


What do butterflies eat and drink?

Butterflies primarily feed on sweet nectar from flowers. They also consume rotting fruit, tree sap, and sugar water from butterfly feeders.

How do butterflies eat?

Butterflies use their proboscis, a long tongue, to extract and drink liquids. They curl and uncurl their proboscis to drink nectar, tree sap, or other liquids.

How do butterflies find food?

Butterflies use their highly sensitive antennae, legs, and other body parts to smell and locate their favorite plants. They are attracted to colorful and sweet-smelling flowers that provide nectar.

What are the common things that butterflies eat?

Butterflies commonly eat sweet nectar from flowers, rotting fruit, tree sap, and homemade sugar water from butterfly feeders.

What is flower nectar?

Flower nectar is the primary food source for adult butterflies. It is a sweet liquid produced by flowering plants. Butterflies are attracted to vibrant-colored and sweet-smelling flowers for nectar.

What is fruit juice from rotting fruit?

Butterflies are also attracted to the juice of rotting fruit. It contains sugary liquid that provides nutrients and energy for butterflies.

What is tree sap?

Tree sap is a common food source for adult butterflies. Certain tree species produce sap that attracts butterflies. It provides them with water, sugars, and essential minerals.

What is sugar water from butterfly feeders?

Sugar water is a substitute for natural nectar and is commonly used in butterfly feeders to attract and nourish butterflies. It can be made with a mixture of sugar, soy sauce, and water.

What do butterflies eat and drink in general?

In general, butterflies have a diverse diet. They primarily consume sweet nectar from flowers but also feed on rotting fruit, tree sap, and various other substances like mud, urine, sweat, tears, and other insects.

Categorized in:

Butterflies, Butterfly Food,

Last Update: December 30, 2023