Butterflies do not eat butterflies, but caterpillars do! Caterpillar is the true eating phase of a butterfly where they eat pre-pupa and mature eggs—especially caterpillars from the breed zebra longwing, Pipevine swallowtails, gold rim, Cloudless sulphur, and monarch.
Are Zebra longwings cannibals?
Note: Cannibals are animals or organisms which eat their own species. Do zebra longwings eat their own species?
The Zebra longwing belongs to an unorganized class of butterflies known as Heliconius. Zebra longwings can be found in parts of Florida and Texas and Mexico and Central America. They eat the leaves of passion vines, banana trees, Brazil leaf plants, and others.
The larvae are reportedly cannibalistic as larvae or “caterpillars” prey on other siblings by eating them. One of the most exciting things about these adult butterflies is that they have a dark side: when placed in captivity before dying, they are known to feed on the pupae of other species or their own offspring!
Why would a caterpillar eat another one?
When animals emerge and start sprouting wings, they’re known as Lepidoptera. The caterpillar has to eat multiple times for the pupae to be sated to later hatch from its cocoon.
The plants the butterflies feed on are called host plants. Caterpillars are just mature eggs that feed on host plants. Remember, the pre-pupa and chrysalis are just additions to it. So all three (i.e.) the caterpillar, pre- pupa, and the chrysalis are all made up of the host plant. Hence, the caterpillars’ basic instinct is to eat their shells once they hatch.
The instinct of a moth or butterfly caterpillar is to keep eating once it hatches from its egg, so if there is another egg beside it in the nest, it will eat the other egg. This is because the eggshell is made up of the leaves that the caterpillar eats and its taste for the leaves drives this instinct.
Most butterflies become cannibals when they are confined to a place with little food and no other sources of nourishment. However, this is not always the case: there have been reports of cannibalism even in butterflies with plenty of food.
Cloudless sulphur- Phoebis senna
Cloudless sulphur caterpillars are cannibalistic in their nature itself. Even if they are on a large plant with plenty of food to feed on, they are known for attacking other caterpillars and feeding on them, and hence they are raised alone at these stages.
Then what do butterflies eat?
Butterflies love sugary foods. They usually take their nutrients from flowers. Nectar is sometimes present deep within a flower, and the proboscis helps the butterfly reach it. They also take in food from fruits.
Butterflies use their proboscis to ingest the fruits and suck in the nutrients. So these butterflies ingest in juicy fruits, especially fully ripe or rotten ones, as they will be juicier. Butterflies also feed on tree saps when they cannot find sufficient liquid.
Butterflies don’t eat each other. But the caterpillar phase of both butterflies and moths could be different. The caterpillar is the actual eating phase of the insect, so a butterfly going through its larval stages will hunt for a healthy plant to bond with and then consume as much of its leaves as it can.
A mature female butterfly will deposit her eggs on a healthy, leafy patch and then die. The caterpillar stage that hatches from these eggs will begin to eat like crazy to store energy for its pupa and adult phases. Some caterpillars have even been known to eat their siblings when times are tough. And this isn’t strange at all.