April 2021

Butterfly diet

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Butterfly diet

It’s commonly known that butterflies sip nectar, but they have a wider diet than that sweet treat. Some sip on  fermenting fruit, decaying animal carcasses, animal faeces, wet mud and sap from damaged trees. Why? It seems that they gain extra nitrogen and sodium which are needed for reproduction and are scarce in the typical sugary fare of flower nectar.  

Some butterflies seem to be distasteful to birds, possibly because of the poisonous plants they eat when in their larval caterpillar stage.

Here a common dotted border (Mylothris agathina) butterfly feeds on a sabi star flower in the lodge gardens. All parts of the sabi star are poisonous and ingestion can cause moderate to severe symptoms in most animals.

(Photo tip: a smartphone camera is really good for close-up macro shots like this – no need for a tripod to steady a DSLR camera, and the smartphone camera gives a deeper depth of field.)

This foxy emperor (Charaxes jasius) was feasting on a less savoury meal of lion faeces. I had been alerted to the awful smell at a lion sighting and followed my nose to see this surprising scene.

Jenny Hishin
By Jenny Hishin
Author / Guest Guide