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Frequently Asked Butterfly Questions

We get lots of questions about butterflies at BioWorks. The top 10 are shown below. For more butterfly questions and answers, or to submit your own question, click here.

Q: How long does a butterfly live?
A: Most butterflies live around two weeks to a month. In the wild butterflies must avoid predators and their lives may be shorter than in BioWorks.

Q: How many butterflies are in the enclosure?
A: This depends on the season. Spring, Summer and Fall are better butterfly seasons than Winter. Each day we add new butterflies into the enclosure and each day older butterflies may die off.


Q: What do caterpillars and butterflies eat?
A: Caterpillars eat leaves and butterflies drink nectar.

    • Caterpillars:  Each type of caterpillar has a specific plant, or family of plants, upon which it can feed. Monarchs and queen butterflies eat milkweed. Giant swallowtails eat citrus leaves. Moth caterpillars are not as specific, and many moth caterpillars can eat a larger variety of plants. Learn more about Florida Host Plants
    • Butterflies: Butterflies drink nectar, which is a sugary water substance found inside flowers. The butterfly unrolls its proboscis (similar to a long straw) and sticks it deep inside the flower so it can drink. Butterflies may also drink water from puddles and muddy spots as well as the liquid from rotting fruit, dung, and carrion. Learn more about Florida Nectar Plants


Q: Do butterflies sleep?
A: Butterflies need the sun's warmth to keep them active, so at times when the sun isn't shining they close their wings and rest. This resting state is sort of like sleep, but it's more like just being really tired. When they're resting, butterflies usually don't move around, but they can if they need to. They also don't need to eat as often in this resting state. When the sun comes out, their bodies warm up and they fly off looking for food again.

Q: Do butterflies bite?
A: No. Butterflies don’t have teeth or even what you might consider a mouth. They feed through a long straw-like tongue called a proboscis and mostly drink nectar from flowers. They do not sting and their proboscis cannot break through skin.

Q: Can I touch the butterflies?
A: Butterflies are very fragile. A touch from human fingers can remove the scales on their wings, making it difficult for them to fly. Because of this, we ask you not to touch the butterflies in our enclosure. However, if you are fortunate enough to have  a butterfly land on you, you can stand still and observe its behavior until it chooses to fly away on its own. This doesn’t happen often, though, as the butterflies are generally more interested in eating from the flowers in the enclosure than visiting humans!

Q: Why are those two butterflies “stuck together”?
A: Butterfly mating takes place on a regular basis in our enclosure. When butterflies mate, they connect at the tips of the abdomens, and can stay that way for hours. Sometimes, a female will fly off to keep feeding with a male still attached.

Q: What role do butterflies play in nature?
A: Butterflies are pollinators. They transfer pollen from plant to plant on their wings, legs, and proboscis as they feed. Butterflies and caterpillars also have their part in the food web; many animals will happily make a meal of a butterfly, caterpillar, or egg.

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