Food Chain

What Eats a Butterfly or Moth?

What eats a moth or butterfly? What do butterflies and moths eat?

There are many thousands of species of butterflies and moths (both belonging to the scientific order Lepidoptera), and they live all over and around the world, from the Arctic to the tropical rain forests at the earth’s equator. The only place they don’t live is Antarctica.

As caterpillars, most moths and butterflies eat a variety of leaves and other plant material. The larvae, or caterpillars, of monarch butterflies, are famous for eating the leaves of the milkweed plant. Some moth larvae eat farm crops and are considered pests. The larvae of clothes moths eat wool, silk, fur, feathers, and even leather. People use smelly moth balls to keep moths from laying eggs on their clothing.

However, most adult butterflies and moths don’t eat anything at all; they live off of food energy they stored in their bodies when they were caterpillars. Moth and butterfly adults that do take nourishment usually sip nectar from flowers.

As for what eats moths and butterflies—they have a lot of predators. Most moths are nocturnal, meaning they only fly at night, and their nighttime predators include everyone’s favorite flying mammal, owls, and, as the photo above suggests, many members of that predatory class of web-spinning creatures known as arachnids.

When the sun is up, many species of birds spend a lot of time hunting and eating butterflies and moths and their larvae. Other butterfly and moth predators include lizards and an array of small omnivores such as this pretty one.

Some bears eat moths. For instance, grizzly bears in the US Rocky Mountains sometimes make special trips to places where moths are plentiful. The bears lick masses of moths right off of the ground!

Moth predators even include humans. In parts of southern Africa, for instance, people think that a large moth caterpillar known as the mopane worm is delicious!

Gordon Ramel

Gordon is an ecologist with two degrees from Exeter University. He's also a teacher, a poet and the owner of 1,152 books. Oh - and he wrote this website.
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