Butterflies mudpuddling1

Butterflies and Mud-puddling after the rains

Marianne Furtado  de Nazareth

Mud-puddling is used by many insects, mainly seen in butterflies who use this behaviour to take nutrients from the soil

Mud-puddling is such a lovely word and all it conjures up in my mind, is the cartoon character Pepper Pig, who brings so much joy to kids, jumping and messing around in muddy puddles. I just had to do a story on the phenomenon, especially since it’s about my most favourite insect — The Butterfly!

According to Wiki, Mud-puddling, or simply puddling, is the behaviour most visible with butterflies, but other insects too indulge, as well. They seek out certain moist substances such as rotting plant matter, mud and decomposing carrion and they suck up the fluid from them. Where the conditions are suitable, insects such as butterflies commonly collect in large numbers on wet , dung or waste meat. From the fluids they obtain nutrients such as salts and amino acids that play various roles in their physiology, ethology and ecology. This behaviour also has been seen in some other insects, notably leaf hoppers, like the potato leafhopper.


Mud Puddling Butterflies/©Kishore Bkk

Kishor BKK who is a butterfly lover says – “The photos were taken in the year 2014 near the road side where a large number of butterflies were flying in around that place. I quickly parked the car to take my photos. It took nearly half an hour for these butterflies to settle down in the wet mud,” He went on to say, “Surprisingly , the next year in 2015, I found the similar species of butterflies, settling in the same place.”.

However recently he has not not found anything in that area and feels that it may be a seasonal occurrence, in the month of October. Further he says that the place is noisy with a lot of traffic on the roadside, yet this mud-puddling phenomenon has occurred.

“Mud-puddling is mainly seen in butterflies, but it’s a behaviour by many insects, They take nutrients from the soil. In many species of insects and butterflies,, this behaviour is restricted to males,” says avid butterfly watcher Deepa Mohan.

Butterflies and moths are diverse in their strategies to gather liquid nutrients says an online site. Typically, mud-puddling takes place on wet soil. But even sweat on human skin may be attractive to butterflies and more unusual sources include blood and tears. Again, similar behaviour is not limited to the butterfly, and for example, the various species of bees commonly called sweat bees, are attracted to various kinds of sweat and tears, including that of humans, and other bee species too have been recorded as doing so to various degrees.
In many species of insects, mud- puddling is restricted to males, and the presence of an assembly of butterflies on the ground encourages others to join the presumptive mud-puddling flock.

In tropical India this phenomenon is mostly seen in the post-monsoon season. The groups generally include several species, particularly butterflies and males seem to benefit from the sodium intake through mud-puddling, with an increase in reproductive success. The collected sodium and amino acids are often transferred to the female during mating. This nutrition also enhances the survival rate of the eggs.
Another interesting bit of information shared on a butterfly site is that when puddling, many butterflies and moths pump fluid through the digestive tract and release fluid from their anus. In some, this is released in forced anal jets at 3 second intervals. Fluid of up to 600 times the body mass may pass through and males have a much longer ileum (anterior hindgut) than non-puddling females.

Featured image: Kishore Bkk

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