What is Mud Puddling?
Butterflies commonly collect in large numbers on wet, dung or waste meat to extract minerals from it. From the fluids they obtain nutrients such as salts and amino acids that play various roles in their physiology, ethology and ecology.
Mud Puddling and butterflies
Butterflies get most of their nutrition from flower nectar. Though rich in sugar, nectar lacks some important nutrients the butterflies need for reproduction. So that, butterflies visit puddles to suck nutrients.
By sipping moisture from mud puddles, butterflies take in salts and minerals from the soil. This behavior is called puddling, and is mostly seen in male butterflies. That’s because males incorporate those extra salts and minerals into their sperm.
Benefits of Mud Puddling
When butterflies mate, the nutrients are transferred to the female through the spermatophore. These extra salts and minerals improve the viability of the female’s eggs, increasing the couple’s chances of passing on their genes to another generation.
Sodium is important for both male and female butterflies. Females lose sodium when they lay eggs, and males lose sodium in the spermatophore, which they transfer to the female during mating. Sodium loss is much more severe, it seems, for the males than for the females.
The first time it mates, a male butterfly may give away a third of its sodium to its reproductive partner. Since the females receive sodium from their male partners during mating, their sodium procurement needs aren’t as great.
Other Insects Gathering in Mud Puddles
Butterflies aren’t the only insects you’ll find gathering in mud puddles. Many moths use mud to make up their sodium deficits, too. Mud puddling behavior is common among leaf hoppers, too. Moths and leaf hoppers tend to visit mud puddles at night, when we are less likely to observe their behavior.