Monday, July 9, 2012

Thirsty Butterflies At A Pee Party

  Yep!  That's precisely what we saw on our damp riverbank.

We eased up to the butterflies, almost as if we were alligators, and hung onto the riverbank while we watched the butterfly's mud puddling party.
Homeschoolers in biology class
   A group of Summer Azure Butterflies were drinking from the damp ground at the riverside.  Damp, as a result of all the splashes from the boys' swimming and diving in the river.
   The butterflies stayed at their drinking a very long time.  It was obvious these Summer Azures weren't simply thirsty.  If the butterflies were truly thirsty, they could have lowered their proboscises into the river and tried to drink it dry.
   So, why do the butterflies keep drinking... and drinking?  They are simply passing the water through their bodies in order to get certain minerals from the water... minerals the water has absorbed, or leached,  from the soil. When butterflies engage in this behavior... sucking up moisture from damp ground, pumping it through their systems, and frequently "peeing" droplets of water... it's called "puddling".  We used the term, "pee party".

   To me, what is astounding about this puddling process, is illustrated in the photo above. The butterfly can suck (drink, gather, absorb, or whatever) water from the damp ground faster than the excreted droplets can seep away.  It does that through its thin, flexible proboscis... without clogging it up. Could you make me a big one of those?  I can think of a few useful applications. To take up all that water from the damp ground,  the butterfly's proboscis must work like a sponge... a very effective one. 
Between the four Azures at the party, there was almost a constant dripping.
Here is a link to another Nature Post about  mud puddling butterflies.
   We had some good laughs as we named the butterflies... "Water-works Willy"... "Puddles"... "Peedles"
Oh, and someone jokingly made the comment, "You mean, you went to all that (hanging on the riverbank... Nikon and all)  just to see a butterfly pee?!?".
Well, it was a quite a bit more than that, wouldn't you say?
For example: I heard the boys talking about inventing an efficient pump like the butterfly's proboscis... since there are some valuable trace elements (like gold) in water.
Pump it boys!


  1. Fascinating post Dana.

    Love the shot of you in the water sneaking up on the butterfly. That's just wonderful !

    I guess with the awful heat you've been having, a fully clothed dip must have been refreshing.

    1. Sybil,
      I reckon it was a "cool" way to photograph the butterflies.

  2. you guys...


    I loved the photos of you, Dana... the lengths you go to get a good shot...most people TOTALLY and COMPLETELY miss 100% of the time.

    1. Bev,
      Fortunately I didn't slide on down into the deep water... camera and all. So the story ends well.