Protein-eating Butterflies

All living organisms need proteins that provide building blocks for cells and are crucial for the body’s healthy growth and development. Did you know that protein-eating butterflies exist?

Most butterflies build their own proteins from amino acids (components of protein) they get from nectar. However, there are other species of butterflies that require much more proteins than others.

The longwing butterflies (genus Heliconius), that are found mostly in tropical and subtropical regions of South America, developed an interesting trait. These butterflies collect and eat pollen which contains much more proteins usually than nectar can provide – which is unique in the butterfly world.

If you have a look at the picture below, you can notice they carry yellowish looking “stuff” on their proboscis. Similar to bees, these butterflies collect pollen while visiting flowers for nectar. Once they collect enough pollen they will sit in a quiet place, mix collected pollen with regurgitated nectar and drink this amino-acids loaded potion.

Such a protein enhanced diet allows longwing butterflies live much longer than its counterparts and also increases egg production.

protein-eating butterflies

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Author: Artiom Bondarenco