The butterfly is perhaps one of the prettiest creatures on the planet. Though it starts in a more assuming form – which is that of a caterpillar – it emerges from a chrysalis with colorful, vibrant wings.
Despite its ability to fly, the butterfly’s small size makes it easy prey for most animals. Though it usually comes with some form of chemical defense, the butterfly often finds itself hunted by the creatures below.
Main Butterfly Predators
The snake is perhaps the largest and the most fearsome out of all butterfly predators. Long, legless, and carnivorous, the snake belongs to the aptly-named suborder Serpentes. Because of its size, the butterfly is often at the mercy of a smaller snake that can swallow it whole.
What’s interesting about a snake is that it becomes dormant during the digestion phase. Since this is an energy-consuming activity, a disturbance during the digestive process can make the serpent to regurgitate its newly-eaten butterfly.
There are approximately 10,000 bird species in the world. With their immense numbers, it comes as no surprise why butterflies find it hard to shake them off.
The bird, which is considered as the only living dinosaur in the world, is known for its flight – and a whole lot of other things. It has colorful features, a lightweight skeleton, and a four-chambered heart.
The bird can capture its butterfly prey through a variety of mechanisms. It can glean on it – meaning it can simply swoop in and capture the insect from the ground. It can also attack its prey from a tree branch – a technique that birds often use on unsuspecting butterflies.
The next predator of butterflies is the frog, which is a carnivore that delights on feeding butterflies and other insects.
Most frogs have long, sticky tongues that roll out. This anatomic design enables them to trap their prey. But since they aren’t able to see while they are hunting, they need to make some calculations before they go in for the kill.
Although this is the case, there are some unfortunate frogs born without tongues. For that, they have to rely on their webbed fingers to catch the insect.
As such, aquatic frogs have webbed feet that help them swim. Land-based creatures, on the other hand, have short legs that allow faster walking and climbing. Tree frogs, in the meantime, possess round toe pads that help them adhere to most tree branches.
No matter what frog species it might be, the universal truth is that they all are unable to chew. As such, when a frog successfully manages to catch a butterfly, it has to swallow it whole before it can escape its clutches.
The lizard, a reptile of almost 6,000 species, is a predator that can be found in most parts of the world. It can range in size – from the small Brookesia micra to the 3-meter long gecko.
The lizard is a sit-and-wait predator, which means it catches its food through stealth and strategy. There are some lizards, however, who forage actively. The chameleon, for example, often waits on a branch patiently as it blends with the background. It can lie there perfectly still, with only its eyes moving, as it anticipates the coming of prey such as the butterfly.
The dragonfly is another well-known butterfly predator. Like the latter, it is known for its wings. Unlike the butterfly, the dragonfly has a hindwing that is bigger than its forewing.
The difference in wingspan, however, makes the dragonfly a better flyer than the butterfly. With that being said, it can prey on unknowing insects so efficiently with its impressive kill rate of 95%.
As a carnivore, the dragonfly an eat an insect a fifth of its size. The feeding process often starts with the dragonfly biting its prey’s head. Once incapacitated, it drags the insect by the legs right back to its nest. After doing so, the dragonfly starts removing the butterfly’s wings before it proceeds to munch on the latter’s head.
The wasp, which has been in existence since the Jurassic period, is one of the smaller insects that feed on butterflies. After attacking and stinging its prey, the wasp usually offers the poor creature as food to its hungry larvae. Some wasps, on the other hand, squash the insect before they present it as sustenance to their young.
Some wasps lay their eggs directly onto the butterfly. This allows the newborn wasps to feed on the prey directly. While the larvae feast on the butterfly, the adult wasps take this is an opportunity to suck the remaining fluids out of the poor creature.
The ant may be small in size, but it’s one of the most perseverant predators of the butterfly. As a famous form of biological pest control, the ant can take down a variety of butterflies.
Its favorite prey proves to be the Grizzled skipper butterfly, which emits vibrations by opening its wings. The ants sense this movement easily. This gives them the ability to prey on bigger insects such as the butterfly.
Because it proves harder to catch a fleeing butterfly, most ants set their sights on a weaker, more ‘immobile’ version: the caterpillar. Like its older version, the caterpillar emits vibrations that make it easier to capture.
The fly is another proof that size doesn’t matter when it comes to feeding. In fact, it can use its minute size to its advantage.
Female flies often ride on the backs of insects – such as the butterfly – and lay their eggs on it. At times, the butterfly ends up feeding on leaves where the eggs are laid. Once the larvae manage to enter the insect’s body, they commence on eating the insides. This smart way of hatching and feeding makes the fly a natural way to control certain pests.
The beautiful butterfly is a favored prey amongst many animals. It serves as sustenance to many creatures, ranging from the fierce snake to the majestic bird. It can also serve as a food source to smaller insects, such as that of wasps, ants, and flies.
I hope that this article on butterfly predators was helpful! If you are interested, visit the Animal Facts Page!