Butterflies have always been a matter of fascination for us. But have you ever seen them anywhere apart from near a flower of fruit hunting for nectar? I bet you wouldn’t have. Have you ever seen the poop of a butterfly or other insects? Have you ever thought about whether a butterfly poop or not?
So, do butterflies poop? No, butterflies do not poop. All that they do is drink so much that they emit a fine spray of water from the tip of their abdomen. But you cannot call it urine, rather it is almost pure water.
Quite fascinating, huh?
So how do they live an entire life eating and without pooping? How is it possible? Are all butterflies the same? There must be such millions of questions gushing past your head, right?
In this article, we will discuss in detail how butterflies can survive without pooping.
Adult butterflies don’t poop!
Before we proceed any further, you need to be very clear that only the adult butterflies do not poop. The caterpillar and larvae of a butterfly do poop. But why is it so? Why is it that the adult butterflies do not poop?
Do you know that adult butterflies feed mainly on liquid sources food? For instance, nectar from flowers.
Butterflies are virtually incapable of eating anything that is solid. When it comes to butterflies consuming nectar, they only imbibe a small quantity because each flower has only a minuscule amount of nectar in it.
Since butterflies consume only liquid food, they do not excrete solid wastes; rather, they defecate liquid waste. This cannot be compared to urine because it’s almost pure water.
It is interesting to note that even excreting this watery waste does not often happen because most of the water content might leave through their respiratory system while they fly.
Butterflies only poop when they are a caterpillar
Caterpillar is a stage in the life cycle of a butterfly. During the caterpillar stage, all that it does is keep munching on the leaves they live upon. It is the only stage in the life of a butterfly where they eat solid food. Eating solid food means that they poop. A caterpillar almost continuously defecates, and if there are a large number of caterpillars in an area, you can hear them poop.
The poop of a caterpillar is known as “Frass.” If you didn’t know, a caterpillar poop is very important to the ecosystems, especially in tropical areas and the temperate regions.
Is it true that butterflies do not consume anything solid?
Yeah, adult butterflies do not consume anything solid. They don’t eat anything at all. They acquire their nutrition from drinking.
Butterflies do not have teeth. They have a coiled tube-like structure known as the proboscis that acts as a straw using which they drink from fruits and flowers.
Butterflies do not have a mouth, let alone teeth. All that they have is a proboscis using which they suck in their food. It is virtually impossible to suck in solid food through the proboscis, even if they want to. So butterflies in general, stick to a liquid diet.
The only time in their life a butterfly eats solid food is during the larval and caterpillar stage. But technically you can’t call them butterflies in that phase. So yeah, butterflies never consume anything solid.
Is it true that certain butterflies eat pollen grains?
Yes, certain butterflies eat pollens. But pollens are solids, right? And a butterfly cannot eat anything solid, so how do they eat pollen?
Certain butterflies are capable of breaking down the pollens into proteins and amino acids before consuming them. These nutrients in the pollens give the adult butterflies the ability to live longer, sometimes even up to 6 months.
The digestive system of a butterfly
The digestive system of a butterfly begins with a long straw-like tube called proboscis using which they suck in the liquids. As mentioned earlier, since butterflies lack mouth and teeth, liquid food constitutes their source of nutrition.
Their digestive system is a bit complex considering the fact for each nutrient they need; they have a different strategy. Once the liquid food reaches its stomach, the food is digested, and proteins and other minerals are absorbed. The waste matter is then expelled from the anus in liquid form.
How do butterflies poop?
Apart from getting out of the waste from the body, excretion has another important role to play in the digestive cycle of a butterfly. It helps maintain a constant level of salt and water in the haemolymph (blood) of the butterfly and to get the toxic compounds produced after the metabolic activities.
Butterflies have a system of tubes known as the Malpighian tubules that are found throughout the body of a butterfly. These tubules pick up the waste from the haemolymph and carry it to its rectum and are expelled from its body in liquid form.
Is it true that butterflies sometimes poop red?
Yeah, some butterflies expel a red liquid from their anus. Though it might look like poop, it is not. If you have closely observed this, you might know that butterflies expel this red substance a few days after they have come out of the cocoon as adult butterflies.
This red liquid that the butterfly expels is called meconium, which is actually a leftover part of the caterpillar that was not needed to make the butterfly. It is stored in the intestine of a butterfly before it expels out through its anus.
Did you know that a butterfly got its name from its poop?
Yeah, you heard me right. There is a story as to how Butterflies got its name. It is said that long ago, a group of Dutch scientists was studying the butterfly poop, which is officially known as frass.
If you have seen a butterfly dropping, you might know that it looks very similar to butter. The scientists felt this, and they named them butterflies.
If they feed only on liquid food, why are they seen on poop and flesh of animals?
Butterflies do have an air of mystery surrounding them, or at least most people find it that way. For instance, it is intriguing to see butterflies sitting on poo and flesh of dead animals. Don’t get confused, even if you see one. No butterflies can ever eat solid food.
An important thing to know about butterflies is that they don’t get all their nutrients from the nectar of flowers. For instance, sodium is an essential nutrient that is vital for the survival of butterflies. In such cases, they go in search of these nutrients from other sources.
Similarly, when butterflies land on anything that’s rotting or dead, they do something called mud-puddling to acquire the essential nutrients. So if you see a butterfly over a dead animal or a poop, know that they are doing mud-puddling.
What essentially happens in mud puddling can be put in simple words as butterflies suck in the fluids using their proboscis and are pumped to their digestive system and released through their anus (As liquid).
It is estimated that during mud puddling, liquid food of an average of 600 times its normal body weight passes through its body.
So, don’t get confused. Even when they are seen over poop or flesh of dead animals, they are not consuming solid food.