Butterflies do not urinate or defecate the way we understand it. The butterfly anatomy doesn’t have the same complicated kidneys or digestive systems as mammals. However, that doesn’t mean that they don’t eliminate waste.
To understand how butterflies pee and poop, we must first understand how they eat at food sources, and how they gather nutrients. Spoiler: It gets a little gross.
What is a butterfly’s pee called?
Butterfly pee is called abdominal dew, also called abdominal sap. When humans pee, liquids pass through the kidneys where they expel excess liquids and toxins. But butterflies don’t have kidneys, so they don’t pee. At least, in the way that we understand peeing.
Adult butterflies have a hole in their abdomen where they expel excess water and nitrogenous waste. When they consume more liquid than needed, they spray it through their tiny hole. But they don’t gather water like birds at a bird bath.
Butterflies do something very unique called mud puddling to gather required liquids and minerals to stay energized. Mud-puddling is when butterflies land on animal waste or mud puddles to gain proteins, sugars, and amino acids. Sometimes it’s animal waste, other times it’s simple mud puddles.
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What color is butterfly urine?
The liquid that comes from a butterfly’s body is almost pure water, so it’s clear.
How to make your own butterfly puddling pad?
If you want to help out your local butterflies, you can make a puddling place for them to energize. Here’s a quick way to make a puddling pad.
1. Fill a pot (like a flower pot) with sand, and top it with soil and salt, then stir.
2. Using your finger, make a dent in the middle of the pot and fill it with water.
3. Hang the pot in a high location.
When butterflies land on the ground, it makes them susceptible to predators. Placing your mini mud-puddling pot high above the ground helps to protect butterfly habitats. Adaptation to their environment is something that butterflies are great at, but giving them a little help is never a bad idea.
How a butterfly absorbs nutrients
To understand how butterflies and caterpillars expel excess fluids and droppings, we must first understand how they eat. Butterflies take in nutrition from their tube-like mouths called the proboscis.
Nutrients travel from the proboscis to the stomach (or the crop) where nutrients are absorbed. Any excess nutrients that the butterfly doesn’t need are expelled into the ecosystem.
When they consume too much liquid than needed from their liquid diet, they simply spray it from a tiny hole in their abdomen. You can call it peeing, but it’s simply a way to drop excess weight.
What is the liquid that a butterfly leaks?
This is where things get a little sticky. Butterflies release a sticky green substance called meconium. They excrete this substance when they emerge from the larva stage, and from their chrysalis.
This green excretion is the waste product of their digestive system as they undergo metamorphosis. But there is more than one liquid a butterfly leaks!
What is the red liquid from a butterfly?
In addition to green meconium, adult butterflies also release a red liquid. Don’t worry, it isn’t blood!
That red liquid is called hemolymph, and it contains nutrients, hormones, and immune cells. It often looks red due to the piments in certain species of butterflies. What’s interesting is that the release of hemolymph is a defense mechanism to make the butterfly seem unappetizing to predators.
So, do butterflies poop?
These pollinators have a liquid diet of nectar, however, they expel excess waste in the form of pellets or crystals (also known as frass).
Frass is made up of nitrogenous compounds like uric acid and resembles tiny grains of sand. We know it as butterfly poop, but it’s not related to the waste of mammals.
How does a butterfly excrete?
Butterflies have an anus that is located at the base of their abdomen. Waste moves through the Malpighian tubules of the butterfly, which filter out extra nutrients and liquids.
The crystals that they excrete are incredibly small, and you likely can’t notice them with the naked eye.
What to read next: Parts Of A Butterfly
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Tara is a passionate butterfly enthusiast with a deep appreciation for the delicate beauty of these enchanting creatures. Her love for butterflies began in childhood, and it has blossomed into a lifelong hobby.