Insects > Monarch Butterflies > What Do Monarchs Eat?

What Do Monarchs Eat?

This Butterfly Is Eating Nectar from a Flower. Do You See the Proboscis(Feeding Straw)?
This Butterfly Is Eating Nectar from a Flower. Do You See the Proboscis (Feeding Straw)?

When it comes to Monarch Butterflies, a lot of people do not know exactly what they eat. Let’s explore some of the things that they would eat. First, you have to realize that there are a lot of monarch butterfly food sources; you just have to look for them! We promise that there are many different monarch butterfly food sources all over your backyard; you just need to look for them.

This is a Close-Up of aButterfly's Proboscis (Coiled Straw). This is How Butterflies Eat.
This is a Close-Up of a Butterfly's Proboscis (Coiled Straw). 
This is How Butterflies Eat.

For starters, the larvae (caterpillars) of monarch butterflies eat ONLY milkweed, this is why the monarch butterfly is dubbed the ‘milkweed butterfly’. The larvae stage is the only stage of the monarch butterfly that feeds on milkweed; there is something in milkweed that allows the caterpillar to grow and keep all of the vitamins needed to transform into a beautiful butterfly. In turn, the adult butterflies consume all sorts of different things including nectar, water and even liquids from some of the fruits we consume. If you are looking to attract monarch butterflies to your backyard, simply plant a few fruit-bearing trees along with plenty of flowers and you should definitely have yourself a back yard full of monarch butterflies. They especially like to drink from mushy slices of banana, oranges and watermelon. There are special butterfly feeders you could buy that are colored like a flower and come with special sugar you mix in water to make food for them to eat.

A Monarch Caterpillar will ONLY Eat Milkweed Plants.
A Monarch Caterpillar will 
ONLY Eat Milkweed Plants.

Now many people do not know exactly how the monarch butterfly food is consumed. Well, a small little pipe, like a straw, which is coiled under its head most of the time is what an adult monarch butterfly uses to suck up all of the nectar from plants. The straw is called a ‘proboscis’. This is the reason that all monarch butterflies generally stick to an all-liquid diet; it is very hard to suck up any solids with a straw like that for your mouth.

Milkweed
Milkweed.
Courtesy Ellen Lucy

It is pretty obvious that if you happen to find yourself a monarch butterfly and are looking for a monarch butterfly food source, you should turn toward the liquids. Monarch butterflies are known for their completely liquid diets, whether they are sampling nectar from all sorts of different flowers, or they are using their long ‘straw’ to drink up water out of shallow ponds, monarch butterflies are usually always looking for things that are liquid to eat.

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