Natural History Photographs

Feeding on flowers

Butterflies feed on flowers. Although this is a bit of an overstatement (you might also see them on mud, or even on more exotic food sources, like carrion!), it is certainly true that many butterflies can be seen feeding on all kind of flowers. What they get from flowers is nectar, a watery sugar solution that fuels the butterflies' flight.

For a flower to be visited by a butterfly, they have to be available to the butterfly. This applies to spatial as well as temporal availability. If the habitat of plant and butterfly do not overlap, there will be little opportunity for a butterfly to visit that plant. More stringent is temporal overlap: if a plant doesn't flower when the butterfly is flying, there will never be an opportunity for a visit. Apart from such quite trivial restrictions, almost anything goes - though not always with equal enthusiasm. Some flowers are only incidentally visited, while others are so attractive that they can be loaded with butterflies.

Here's a small sample of flower visiting butterflies, at a variety of nectar sources.

Thymelicus lineola at Centaurea spec.
Parnassius apollo at Dianthus spec.

Pieris rapae at Salix spec. Lycaena phlaeas at Hedera helix

Polyommatus icarus at Centaurea spec. Tarucus balkanicus at Paliurus spina-christi

Argynnis pandora at Phlomis spec.

Boloria aquilonaris at Potentilla palustris

Maniola jurtina at Jacobaea vulgaris
Melanargia titea at thistle