Butterfly Predators: What Eats Butterflies?

The most common butterfly predators are birds such as sparrows and warblers, frogs, snakes, as well as other insects like flies, hornets, and wasps. In some cases, people eat butterflies — they are even a delicacy in some countries.

What Animals Eat Butterflies?

Butterflies are on the menu of various animals, including:

  • Birds
  • Insects
  • Reptiles
  • Amphibians
  • Mammals

Some mammals that eat butterflies are rodents, monkeys, and cats. Toads and frogs are common amphibians that eat butterflies. Their sticky tongues and quick motions make it easy to catch flying butterflies.

What kind of birds eat butterflies?

Orange Warblers
Orange Warblers

Birds are among the top predators of butterflies. Below is a list of some birds that eat butterflies:

  • Warblers
  • Sparrows
  • Parrots
  • Blue Jays
  • Northern mockingbirds
  • Black-headed grosbeak

What Insects Eat Butterflies?

Praying mantis
Praying mantis

Many insects eat butterflies, such as flies, wasps, ants, pray mantises, and dragonflies. Insects often eat butterflies at other stages of the butterfly lifecycle rather than adult butterflies.

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Ants and flies eat butterfly eggs, sick caterpillars, and dead butterflies. They may also feed on pupas, especially pupas buried underground.

Wasps, especially paper wasps, feed on butterflies. Wasps and many other insects also use pupas as hosts for their own young. Wasps may lay eggs in pupas. When the eggs hatch, the wasp larvae eat the chrysalis from the inside out.

What Reptiles Eat Butterflies?

Snakes and lizards are common reptiles that eat butterflies. These reptiles do not eat butterfly wings since their wings don’t provide nutritional value to them. Instead, they will devour the butterfly’s body and leave the wings behind.

What Humans Eat Butterflies?

Humans eat butterflies in Asia, Mexico, and Africa. Eating butterflies is considered a delicacy in some cultures around the world. Still, not all species of butterflies and caterpillars are edible. The edible ones are eaten because they are high in protein, fat, minerals, and vitamins. Insects are cooked before eating to kill any parasites.

What Else Can Kill/Destroy Butterflies?

Pesticides, parasites, and disease are other causes of death for butterflies. Roadkill is another cause of death for adult butterflies, especially Monarchs. While butterflies are flying, they may collide with a fast-moving car, which would cause death to the butterfly.

Neonicotinoids are a group of insecticides that kill butterflies. This type of pesticide is absorbed and distributed throughout the plant. This causes the leaves, nectar, and pollen to be toxic to insects that feed on them.

The herbicide Glyphosate often eliminates milkweed plants from agricultural fields. This loss of milkweed has caused major declines in the Monarch population. It is one of the reasons that Monarch butterflies are considered endangered.

The OE parasite is a common parasite that affects migrating butterflies. Monarch butterflies are especially affected by the OE parasite. It reduces survival rates, reproductive success, and flight ability.

Some butterfly diseases are commonly referred to as Black Death. Young caterpillars with Black Death disease will shrivel up, release black goo, and turn black before dying. Butterflies in the pupa stage often get this disease, too. The chrysalis will appear black, which means the butterfly inside has died and turned into black goo.

When are butterflies most vulnerable?

Butterflies are eaten at different stages in their life cycle. Predators attack them during the egg and caterpillar stages of their life cycle. Once they are adult butterflies and can fly, they are more difficult for predators to catch. However, their bright colors make them more visible to predators.

How to Protect Butterflies from Predators

The best way to protect butterflies from predators is to raise them in netted butterfly habitats. This type of butterfly garden has the highest success rates for raising butterflies. The netting keeps them safe from predators.

You should include a large milkweed plant in the butterfly cage to help raise MonarchsSwallowtailsand other species. Caterpillar frass, or scat, should be cleaned out daily to help avoid infection. Before raising another batch of butterflies, disinfect the habitat to kill any diseases.

How do butterflies protect themselves from predators?

Butterflies use mimicry as a defense mechanism. This increases the butterfly’s chance of survival as the butterfly will imitate other toxic butterflies to deter predators.

Some butterflies are toxic since they consume toxic host plants. For example, many predators avoid eating Monarch butterflies since their bodies contain toxins from milkweed plants. These toxins affect most predators, but not all. For example, dogs can become sick from eating Monarch butterflies.

Finally, certain caterpillars form a relationship with ants, keeping predators away.

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