Some people believe that butterflies drink blood. This is because the word ‘drink’ has two meanings: to take in fluids through the mouth, but another definition is ‘to be strongly attracted’ (Oxford Dictionaries).
Butterflies drink blood. They also drink tears and feed on rotting meat. However, none of these are key elements in teh butterfly’s diet. Blood serves as a source of sugar for them. Meanwhile, tears provide salt and rotting meat provides protein while attracting them with its smell.
When you think about it, this makes sense for why some people may believe that butterflies drink blood; the word ‘drink’ has two meanings, which implies that butterflies might be strongly attracted to blood.
What kind of butterfly drinks blood?
Butterflies come in many forms. There are over 160,000 species across the world (Live Science), and they can vary in size, shape, color, and behavior. They are divided into skippers and non-skippers; the skippers tend to be active during the day and fly in a similar fashion to moths, whereas non-skippers are more passive, stay close to vegetation at all times, don’t have bright colors or patterns on their wings but do have beautiful underwings that they display when threatened (Caterpillars of Eastern North America).
Here are five kinds of butterfly that drink blood
Five types of butterflies drink blood: the White-line Snout and the Vampire. The White-Line Snout lives in Central America, and it has a long proboscis that looks like a bird’s beak, which it uses to suck nectar from flowers. It also feeds
1. Sphinx Moths
The huge Atlas moth, which breeds in parts of Asia and Australasia, has a wingspan of up to 25cms (Wikimedia). They are known as ‘drinking’ butterflies because they suck nectar from flowers with their proboscis – a long tube that extends from the head. Since the animal cannot drink through its mouth, it may seem that they are ingesting liquids when, in fact, they are gathering the flower’s nectar with their proboscis.
2. Blue Morphos
Blue Morpho butterflies fly very swiftly and have brightly colored wings (Wikimedia). As with many butterflies in this list, they feed on nectar from flowers. It would be difficult for them to drink blood, as they don’t have the proboscis with which to extract it.
3. The Owl Butterfly
The owl butterfly is known for its large eyespots that mimic an actual owl’s face (Wikimedia). Their larvae feed on toxic vines called Aristolochia, so they have developed a resistance to the toxins in the vine (Bold Science). They wouldn’t drink human blood because they feed on toxic Aristolochia, so their feeding habits don’t include blood.
4. The Monarch Butterfly
The monarch butterfly is one of the most widely known butterflies (Wikimedia). Its larvae and caterpillars feed on milkweed. If you were to look at a graph of the diet of a monarch versus where it lives, you would see that they aren’t anywhere near human blood (R. Bessin, D/C), so they have no reason to drink human blood.
5. The Grass Eggar Moth
Grass eggar moths are brown (Wikimedia). At rest, they lay flat against a surface. Females have a white band on each forewing, and males have a yellow one. They are harmless to humans and don’t drink blood because their mouthparts aren’t suitable for that purpose.
In conclusion, it is very unlikely that any butterfly species drinks human blood. The idea might come from the fact that some butterflies feed on nectar and fluids from flowers which could be seen as a similar process to drinking water, which people do. However, all kinds of butterflies are attracted to sources of nectar and don’t drink blood.
Are butterflies attracted to dead bodies?
The answer is yes and no. Butterflies drink nectar from flowers and other plants, and most animals avoid areas with a lot of death. This is because these places are dangerous for most animals, which could be attacked by predators or catch life-threatening diseases. However, some butterflies are attracted to dead bodies in their adult stage because they use rotting flesh to lay their eggs. These include species in the Pieridae family that have mainly white wings covered in dark spots.
Some butterflies don’t eat in the adult stage and only drink nectar. This doesn’t include any species in the Lepidopteran family, and butterflies in this group rely on nectar for survival when they are adults. Butterflies in the Papilionidae family, such as swallowtails and monarchs, feed on nectar from flowers when adults because they don’t have a long, thin tube-like proboscis. This means that it would be difficult for them to extract blood from a human, and they wouldn’t drink it if they were able to.
These species are not attracted to dead bodies. However, one species of butterfly uses rotting flesh as a source of food, which is the African wood nymph.
Do butterflies drink human tears?
It’s unlikely that butterflies drink tears from humans. Butterflies feed on nectar and don’t ‘need’ to eat other substances as humans do. It’s possible that some species could taste tears, but it’s unlikely they would ‘drink’ them for fluids as they can fly long distances and don’t need to stop at a source of liquids as they have evolved to get by without this from nature.
As with dead bodies, it depends on whether the butterfly drinks nectar or blood. Most species of butterfly drink nectar, but some do feed on blood to survive. Of these species, there are no known instances where they have drunk human tears; however, they are attracted to the salt in human sweat. This is why some people believe that butterflies drink human tears.
The African wood nymph is a butterfly species in the Nymphalidae family that drinks human sweat and tears. This species hunts for salt sources to survive; otherwise, they can’t reproduce because insects need salt to live. If someone were close enough, African wood nymphs might be attracted to their eyes as a source of salt.
This is not a myth, but it is highly unlikely that any butterfly species drinks human tears. This myth likely started because African wood nymphs feed on salt, and humans sweat and cry out of emotion, which could be mistaken for drinking tears.
Butterflies are not attracted to blood or dead bodies. Some will lay their eggs on rotting flesh if it means their larvae can survive, but there are no known instances of butterflies drinking human tears. Butterflies drink nectar from flowers or other plants. These insects are not attracted to sources of nectar that other living organisms use as well, such as rotting flesh or human tears.