Written By Karl VonBerg.

Posted on August 27th, 2019.

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Puddling… it’s a thing that butterflies do.

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Do you ever see butterflies meeting together around a mud puddle? Or how about at a certain spot on a dirt road, like in the picture above. It is common enough it has a name: Puddling, since it is commonly seen at puddles. Did you ever wonder what they are doing?

Well, some folks have taken the time to dig in and figure that out for us curious folks. It turns out they are getting salts and minerals. Long-lived butterflies like the Swallowtail don’t just mate and die. They may live for weeks or even months. Since they live longer, they need the building blocks of proteins, amino acids and elements like sodium to keep themselves going.

Since butterflies eat mostly nectar for food they don’t get the sodium and other building blocks they need to survive long-term. Mud puddles, urine, dung, even dead animals give them these things so they can survive longer. Sometimes they may land on you, if you are sweaty, to get the salt you are sweating out.

Those observing have realized that most of the time it is the male Swallowtails at the puddles and spots on the dirt roads. What they have discovered is this:

  • The males gather the minerals
  • These minerals are transferred to the female with the males sperm when they mate
  • These minerals seem to help the survival of the eggs the female lays

If you want to try an experiment you can take some salt you put in solution (mix salt and boiling water so the salt dissolves) and then poor it on the ground in a sunny spot. You may need to bait it with a dead butterfly you find. Then wait and see if any butterflies are attracted to it. You can even try doing this using your own urine! Just be a bit discrete about it so people don’t wonder about you!

See how many different kinds of butterflies you can attract.

So, next time you see butterflies hanging out around a mud puddle, or dung, or dead animals or a certain spot you know what is going on: They are just puddling.


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