Chin’s Butterfly Gallery
CHIN'S BUTTERFLY GALLERY ~ NOTEBOOK ~ WHEN BUTTERFLY-WATCHING TURNS FINGER LICKIN' GOOD
When butterfly-watching turns finger lickin' good
By Chin Fah Shin
MOST PEOPLE I KNOW like to feed animals ... pets at home or in a petshop, monkeys and other animals in "a petting zoo", or livestock on a farm. A wet tongue, a warm nose, or soft, spongy lips brushing against one's fingers or palm can make children, and even grownups squeal with delight or that squirmish feeling. For older folks getting an animal to eat out of one's hand evokes a satisfying and peaceful feeling.
The lightest touch of all is the tickle of a butterfly's tongue. It is so soft you can barely feel it. But you will never succeed in luring these creatures with food. The very act of extending your hand will probably frighten them away. They just will not accept food.
Butterflies, unlike the voracious caterpillars in their earlier stages of growth, do not eat in the normal sense of the word. They do not have mouthparts for chewing.
Instead, they have a proboscis, a long tube like a flexible drinking straw through which they suck up liquid nutrients ... nectar from flowers, the juice of ripe fruits, or tree sap.
Some butterfly species are partial to the juices of fermenting fruit lying on the forest floor. Collectors make use of this fact to bait them with over-ripe fruit. Pineapple is a highly attractive bait.
There's another way to attract butterflies. Sometimes, even without trying to entice them, you may find one or several landing on you. And it's all because you're sweating. Yes, you can attract butterflies simply by working, or walking, up a good sweat. Trekkers and picnickers in our parks and forests are often delighted to find butterflies alighting on them.
Autumn Leaf (Doleschallia bisaltide) lapping up the sweat from my hand.
If you are careful not to make any sudden movement that would startle the creature, you may even see it extending its proboscis, like a long tongue, feeling, tasting and sucking up the sweat from your skin or sweat-soaked clothing.
Like all living creatures, butterflies require salts for metabolism and they get them occasionally from perspiring nature-lovers, but mainly from ground seepage and a few other sources which, for the sake of good taste, shall not be mentioned.
So, now that you know the secret of making yourself irresistible to these beautiful, delicate creatures, getting a butterfly to "eat out of your hand may be a simple matter of walking in the woods. But it just wouldn't be appropriate to say "No sweat!" ~ CFS, June 1998.
THIS PAGE REVISED ON MARCH 24, 2018. COPYRIGHT © Chin Fah Shin.