Tears, Sweat, Mud, And Butterflies: I’ve Seen It, But I Had No Idea Why They Do This!

As if butterflies aren’t beautiful enough, this rarely witnessed phenomenon of butterflies drinking turtle tears is sure to fascinate you. However, these butterflies aren’t hanging around their reptilian hosts to make friends; there’s an ulterior motive afoot.

Drinkers of Tears

Photo: Ama la Vida TV, Flickr

This phenomenon is referred to as lachryphagy, which means “tear feeding.”

But Why?

Photo: Lufonz, Flickr
Photo: Lufonz, Flickr

Tear drinking provides butterflies with essential nutrients, including salts and amino acids.

Easy Targets


Because alligators and turtles lounge around basking in the sun most of the day, they are perfect immobile buffets for tear-guzzling butterflies.

It’s All About the Butterfly


Though their relationship with crocodiles and turtles has no negative effects on the reptiles, the butterflies are the only ones benefiting from it – aside from smiling human onlookers.


Photo: Irwin Scott, Flickr

Tears are not a butterfly’s only source of important nutrients. Butterflies can also be seen sucking up fluids from mud puddles.  Yum!

Humans Are Tasty, Too?


You bet – the next time one lands on you while hiking, see if it sticks that long, curly, and completely harmless tongue out to slurp some deliciously salty sweat from your skin.

Butterflies Are Not the Only Tear Drinkers

Photo: David Hill, Flickr

Bees, moths, and other insects are known to drink tears and mud puddles.  (They may not be as welcome on your skin, though.)

The Not-So-Glamorous Mud-Puddler

Photo: Charles Lam, Flickr

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Butterflies can even look for important nutrients in things like animal dung. Now that’s not something you’d expect to see!

Long story short – these extraordinary little creatures are more than just a pretty pair of wings!  Want to help them?

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