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are butterflies herbivores

are butterflies herbivores

are butterflies herbivores

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Butterflies are insects in the macrolepidopteran clade Rhopalocera from the order Lepidoptera, which also includes moths. Adult butterflies have large, often brightly coloured wings, and conspicuous, fluttering flight. The group comprises the large superfamily Papilionoidea, which contains at least one former group, the skippers (formerly the superfamily “Hesperioidea”), and the most recent analyses suggest it also contains the moth-butterflies (formerly the superfamily “Hedyloidea”). Butterfly fossils date to the Paleocene, about 56 million years ago.

Butterflies have a four-stage life cycle, as like most insects they undergo complete metamorphosis. Winged adults lay eggs on the food plant on which their larvae, known as caterpillars, will feed. The caterpillars grow, sometimes very rapidly, and when fully developed, pupate in a chrysalis. When metamorphosis is complete, the pupal skin splits, the adult insect climbs out, and after its wings have expanded and dried, it flies off. Some butterflies, especially in the tropics, have several generations in a year, while others have a single generation, and a few in cold locations may take several years to pass through their entire life cycle.

are butterflies herbivores
are butterflies herbivores


Butterflies are often polymorphic, and many species make use of camouflage, mimicry, and aposematism to evade their predators. Some, like the monarch and the painted lady, migrate over long distances. Many butterflies are attacked by parasites or parasitoids, including wasps, protozoans, flies, and other invertebrates, or are preyed upon by other organisms. Some species are pests because in their larval stages they can damage domestic crops or trees; other species are agents of pollination of some plants. Larvae of a few butterflies (e.g., harvesters) eat harmful insects, and a few are predators of ants, while others live as mutualists in association with ants. Culturally, butterflies are a popular motif in the visual and literary arts. The Smithsonian Institution says “butterflies are certainly one of the most appealing creatures in nature”.


The Oxford English Dictionary derives the word straightforwardly from Old English butorflēoge, butter-fly; similar names in Old Dutch and Old High German show that the name is ancient, but modern Dutch and German use different words (vlinder and Schmetterling) and the common name often varies substantially between otherwise closely-related languages. A possible source of the name is the bright yellow male of the brimstone (Gonepteryx rhamni); another is that butterflies were on the wing in meadows during the spring and summer butter season while the grass was growing.

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Butterfly FAQs

Are Butterflies herbivores, carnivores, or omnivores?

Butterflies are Herbivores, meaning they eat plants.

What Kingdom do Butterflies belong to?

Butterflies belong to the Kingdom Animalia.

What phylum do Butterflies belong to?

Butterflies belong to the phylum Arthropoda.

What class do Butterflies belong to?

Butterflies belong to the class Insecta.

Where do Butterflies live?

Butterflies are found worldwide.

In what type of habitat do Butterflies live?

Butterflies live in quiet forests and pastures.

What do Butterflies eat?

Butterflies eat nectar, pollen, and honey.

What are some predators of Butterflies?

Predators of Butterflies include bats, frogs, small mammals, and reptiles.

How many babies do Butterflies have?

The average number of babies a Butterfly has is 100.

What is an interesting fact about Butterflies?

There are thought to be up 20,000 species of Butterfly!

How many species of Butterfly are there?

There are 12,000 species of Butterfly.

What Do Butterflies Symbolize?

Butterflies have different meanings depending on the culture. For many Christians, they symbolize new birth. In Ancient Greece, butterflies were seen as a symbol of purity and immortality. Some see butterflies as a symbol that they need to relax and get rid of heavy thoughts. Others see them as a sign that a loved one has come to lend a helping hand when a person is going through a tough time.

are butterflies herbivores
are butterflies herbivores

What Are Three Interesting Facts About Butterflies?

  1. Butterflies live on every continent, except Antartica.
  2. Some adult butterflies lack the body parts necessary to feed as adults. Their diet of can be very varied, depending on the species from other insects, rotting plants and dirt, but most of them feed on nectar.
  3. They live in a variety of ecosystems from rainforests to desserts.

What Is Special About Butterflies?

Butterflies are among the world’s most colorful creations. Their wings are covered in tiny light-reflecting scales. When these scales fall off, then they often have areas on their bodies that look transparent.


Herbivores are animals whose diet is primarily composed of plant matter. Most species of butterfly and moth have a larval stage (the caterpillar) that is a herbivore. Many such caterpillars only have a very narrow range of food plants but other herbivores, such as locusts, eat a wide range of plants.

Other names for (or types of) Herbivore include:

  • Phytophagous

Related terms

  • Carnivore
  • Caterpillar
  • Coprophagous
  • Detritivore
  • Diplopoda
  • Ecosystem
  • Food plant
  • Locust
  • Omnivore

Related groups of terms

  • General biology
Butterflies are herbivorous animals as butterflies are known to only eat plant matter with a high sugar content. Butterflies fly between the flowers drinking the nectar through their long tongue which acts as a straw. But a carnivore butterfly exists. It’s even more important for the Harvester, these aphids are a favorite diet source of its caterpillars. The Harvester is the only butterfly species in North America whose caterpillars are strictly carnivorous.

Woolly Beech Aphid

They feed primarily on several species of woolly aphids, often the Woolly Alder Aphid, but also the Woolly Beech Aphid, as well as others. The caterpillars will sometimes disguise themselves from predators by using their silk to tie to their bodies the remains of the aphids they consume. This is especially effective as protection from ants that may be tending the aphids for their honeydew. The Harvester caterpillars share some of the chemical signature of their aphid diet, which also may give them protection from predatory ants.

So wooly aphids feed both the Harvester butterfly and its caterpillars. Because of its habitat and food preferences, the Harvester is not commonly seen. So consider yourself lucky if you encounter one!

Abstract and Figures

This chapter treats butterfly herbivory through a detailed assessment of patterns of foodplant use, focusing on foodplant specificity, taxonomic patterns, growth form, selection and geographical variation. This is followed by a treatment of plant components and their influence on larval growth, and by a section on butterfly caterpillars as herbivores, where morphology, physiology and behavioural aspects are dealt with. The last two parts focus on plants and phenology and butterflies as pests. European butterflies are specialised herbivores that select species of only a third of the plant families as larval hosts.

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They are predominantly herb feeders. Several strategies have been developed by larvae to avoid noxious plant chemicals, while specialisations of morphology, physiology and behaviour allow them efficiently to exploit plant resources. These varied strategies have enhanced the appearance of a variety of herbivore niches that are related to butterfly diversity. From the phenological point of view larval overwintering is the preferred strategy among European butterflies. Probably as a result of changes in agricultural practices in Europe, very few butterfly species can be regarded as pests.

Is butterfly carnivore or omnivore or herbivore?

Butterflies are herbivorous animals as butterflies are known to only eat plant matter with a high sugar content. Butterflies fly between the flowers drinking the nectar through their long tongue which acts as a straw.

Is a butterfly an herbivore?

Herbivores are animals whose diet is primarily composed of plant matter. Most species of butterfly and moth have a larval stage (the caterpillar) that is a herbivore.

What butterflies are carnivores?

In the Americas, there is but a single species of carnivorous butterfly. Unlike other American butterflies whose larvae feed on plants, caterpillars of the Harvester (Feniseca tarquinius) feed only on wooly aphids!

Do all butterflies eat meat?

Do Butterflies Eat Meat or Blood? Yes, butterflies do absorb nutrients from rotten meat and blood. They also need protein and minerals like salts and iron and as such are quite fond of rotten flesh.

Is a butterfly a consumer?

A butterfly is a primary consumer as it obtains its nutrition from plants. Most butterflies feed on nectar from plants for their energy.

Is a butterfly an animal or insect?

butterfly, (superfamily Papilionoidea), any of numerous species of insects belonging to multiple families. Butterflies, along with the moths and the skippers, make up the insect order Lepidoptera. Butterflies are nearly worldwide in their distribution.

Is a butterfly a carnivorous?

Are Butterflies herbivores, carnivores, or omnivores? Butterflies are Herbivores, meaning they eat plants.

What kind of consumer is butterfly?

Life on the Food Chain

are butterflies herbivores
are butterflies herbivores



It is generally assumed that the degree of resource specialization in herbivorous insects increases towards lower latitudes. However, latitudinal patterns in herbivore diet breadth at large spatial scales remain poorly understood. In this work, we investigated the drivers of latitudinal variation in lepidopteran ‘fundamental’ resource specialization, which we defined as the host breadth when not limited by interspecific interactions at the same trophic level.

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The Japanese archipelago (22°N–45°N), including hemiboreal, temperate and subtropical zones.


Herbivorous butterflies.


Species-specific fundamental host breadth calculated based on pooled host-use records. We investigated the latitudinal pattern and significant drivers of the degree of specialization in regional species pools at a 10-km grid level. As potential drivers, we focused on geography, current climate and diversity and body size of butterflies. Through Bayesian structural equation modelling, we investigated the complicated relationships between these variables and community-level resource specialization represented by three different indices of host breadth.


We found that the fundamental resource specialization of butterfly communities increases towards higher latitudes. This pattern is contrary to the presumed general trend found in studies based on realized resource specialization within local communities. We found that the observed pattern driven mainly by factors related to climate, butterfly diversity and body size in each community. Above all, annual mean temperature most strongly drove community-level fundamental host breadth of herbivorous butterflies.

Main conclusions

Our findings suggest that the fundamental resource specialization may show different latitudinal patterns from the conventional prediction based on knowledge of realized resource specialization. Our results emphasize the importance of the current climate as a major factor regulating butterfly morphology and fundamental host breadth, regardless of whether the impact is direct or indirect.

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