While it is true that butterflies do feed on liquids, they typically prefer to feed on floral nectars or tree sap. However, there have been some documented cases of butterflies drinking blood.
But, unlike other insects that perform what’s called “hematophagy” which involves piercing the skin of their victim, butterflies do not! Instead, they typically drink from drops of blood left behind from a wounded animal.
This behavior is most commonly seen in butterflies from the “Erebia” which is a Holarctic genus of brush-footed butterflies, family “Nymphalidae”.
These butterflies are found frequently in the cooler regions of Central Asia, the Alps, rocky mountains, and even in the Arctic regions.
However, these sightings of butterfly drinking blood are extremely rare and they certainly don’t rely on it as a primary source of nutrition.
Types Of Butterflies That Drink Blood
The “Erebia” butterflies from the family “Nymphalidae“, mentioned above, are the most common type of butterfly to be seen drinking blood.
Nymphalidae butterflies are the largest family of butterflies, with more than 6,000 species. They are also the only species to have four (two pairs) of fully functional legs.
The most common types of butterflies that partake in this behavior include:
- The Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui)
- Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta)
- Rock Grayling (Hipparchia hermione)
- Chestnut Bob (Iambrix salsala)
- Clavate Banded Demon (Notocrypta clavata)
- The Tailed Judy (Abisara neophron chelina)
In some cases, they have been documented feeding on mammal blood from rodents and reptiles. While it’s an interesting phenomenon, it is important to remember these incidents are rare and don’t happen frequently.
Do Butterflies Drink Blood From Humans?
While it might sound like something out of an old horror movie, the truth is that butterflies do drink blood from humans but not in the way you might think!
As before, butterflies tend to scavage and drink the blood from tiny droplets, left behind from open wounds.
In this case, there have been reports of butterflies drinking human blood left behind on clothes or on the floor! But never from piercing the skin like mosquitos do!
However, it’s typically only certain breeds such as the yellow-legged butterflies and vampire moths that particularly enjoy feasting on human blood.
The vast majority of butterflies, even some from the “Nymphalidae family” will stick to their preferred diet of floral nectars and tree sap.
What About Blood From Animals Or Insects?
So we know that butterflies drink human blood “but” what about animal and insects blood?
Well, as it turns out, whether it’s animal, insect, or humans blood, it doesn’t really matter to butterflies as they will feed on it anyway.
With that said, animal blood is the most common, this is because butterflies are always out in the open and they tend to come across more animals than humans.
Do Butterflies Drink Blood From The Dead?
Although it sounds gruesome, in some cases, it is plausible for hungry butterflies to come across a dead animal or reptile with an open wound.
And if there’s still a pool of blood left behind the butterflies could see this as an attractive source of nutrition.
However, in this case, it would come down to whether the blood is still “fresh” or not!
If the blood has been sitting long enough to coagulate and lose its nutritional value, then it’s unlikely that the butterflies will drink it.
What Benefits Do Butterflies Get From Drinking Blood?
Although drinking blood is a bizarre behavior for butterflies, it turns out that there are good reasons for it.
For starters, blood is a great source of minerals and proteins which can be difficult for the butterfly to get from other sources.
This allows them to travel long distances while migrating by replenishing what the butterflies lack in their diet of nectar and decaying fruit.
The immediate rewards of guzzling down some blood are the proteins and salts it provides which help generate energy quickly thus facilitating the butterfly’s long-distance journey.
This provides the butterflies with benefits such as:
- Improving flight performance
- Helping with certain life stage transitions
- Increasing the butterfly’s energy levels
Effectively, butterflies are getting the same type of nutrition from drinking blood that terrestrial animals get from eating meat and fish.
What Else Do Butterflies Drink?
Many people know that butterflies rely on the sweet nectar of plants to fuel their flights, but they may not be aware of precisely what they are drinking.
In fact, butterfly species worldwide drink a varying combination of plant juices including:
- Sugary sap from trees and shrubs
- Flower nectar, and also decaying fruit
To get to this tasty food source, butterflies have an impressive proboscis which is used to slurp up these liquid meals.
Even more astonishingly, some butterfly species can also glean important minerals and electrolytes from mud puddles – providing them with a balanced diet!
Other Insects Similar To Butterflies That Drink Blood
Whilst butterflies may enjoy sipping on a drop of blood every now and again, there is another type of insect that has the same habit – Vampire moths.
Vampire Moths (Calyptra thalictri) are nocturnal and have a preference for human blood, as well as the blood of other mammals.
Other blood-sucking insects:
- Horse Fly
- Deer Fly
- Sand Fly
- Head Louse
- Pubic Louse
- Asian Tiger Mosquito
- Black Salt Marsh Mosquito
While it is true that some butterfly species may drink mammal blood (or even human’s!), as before, this unusual behavior is rare and certainly not commonplace.
Most butterflies will stick to their preferred diet of nectars when seeking sustenance!
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