09 July 2012

"Puddling"


I enjoy finding butterflies that are busy puddling, because they are so preoccupied with the task at hand that they allow me to get close for photographs.  On a springtime visit to Crex Meadows Wildlife Area, I saw butterflies literally by the tens of thousands puddling along the road.

Moths and butterflies have a behavior called “puddling”. Males (some females do this as well) will suck up liquids to gain nutrients such as sodium. Butterflies and moths can be observed puddling around puddles, ponds, mud, dung, damp concrete… and apparently, some are also attracted to saliva. Males are the usual suspects because they will offer these extra nutrients to females as a sort of nuptial gift along with their spermatophore during mating.

This moth was fed sugar water while in his enclosure, but apparently the allure of sweat and saliva were too much to resist.
Second photo and text credit to the caterpillar wrangler at Caterpillarblog.

Related:  puddling on a dead frog, on raccoon scat, and lachryphagy

And this incredible fact: " Butterflies that "puddle" at muddy spots or collections of animal dung are seeking sodium, which is rarely found in plants (potassium is the principal cation in vegetation). "In extreme cases a moth may imbibe an amount of fluid 600 times its own weight in a single puddling session, expelling the excess water as it drinks and retaining only the precious [sodium]."

5 comments:

  1. Rick from LouisvilleJuly 9, 2012 at 1:22 PM

    Surely you are aware of Theodore Gray's periodic table website. In his entry on sodium he discusses his "sodium parties" and an extreme example of sodium collection by butterflies:
    http://www.theodoregray.com/periodictable/Stories/011.2/index.html

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  2. One can never be too salty. Thank goodness for it too, because it naturally keeps a lot of bad juju from getting the upper hand. --A.

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  3. I stumbled upon a group of butterflies "puddling" one, but never knew what it was about. I guess I should be ashamed that I thought it was a...group mating situation.

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  4. An interesting take on puddling by a Nat Geo photographer, originally published in the back of a March 2000 issue: "Lay in my own urine on the beach for several hours, hoping to draw butterflies in to photograph them. Not nearly as many butterflies here as bees and wasps I learn, as they funnel up my shirt. "
    http://www.joelsartore.com/story-behind/madidi-diary/ (see Nov29 entry)

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    Replies
    1. I'm not that... adventurous. I do sometimes on a hike wear a several-day-old-sweaty t-shirt for the same purpose, though.

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