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Are butterflies attracted to humans?

Are butterflies attracted to humans?

Butterflies are some of the most beautiful and fascinating creatures on earth. Their colorful wings and graceful flight make them a joy to behold. Many people enjoy seeing butterflies in their garden or yard and may wonder if these insects are actually drawn to humans. The answer is yes, butterflies can be attracted to people for a variety of reasons.

In the opening paragraphs, butterflies are attracted to humans for several reasons:

– Butterflies are looking for food sources and nourishment. Humans sweat and produce salts and other minerals that butterflies can feed on. This is especially true for butterflies that feed on rotting fruit, sap, and other food sources found around human habitation.

– Butterflies are attracted to the vibrant colors that humans wear. Brightly colored clothing resembles flowers and draws in butterflies looking for nectar.

– Butterflies may see human breath as a source of warmth and moisture, similar to the heat and water vapor produced by flowers. This moisture helps butterflies stay hydrated.

– Humans produce carbon dioxide when breathing which attracts butterflies much like the CO2 emitted by plants and flowers. Butterflies use CO2 as a cue to find food.

What Attracts Butterflies to Humans?

There are several key factors that draw butterflies to humans including scent, color, carbon dioxide, sweat and moisture. Here is a more in-depth look at what attracts butterflies to people:


A butterfly’s sense of smell is extremely sensitive and much more acute than human smell. They can detect scents and chemicals from great distances. Many butterflies use scent as their primary means of locating food sources such as nectar-producing flowers. The perfumes, soaps, shampoos and skin oils that humans produce can strongly attract butterflies looking for scents related to flowers and plants. Even human breath produces scents that signal a food source to butterflies.


Butterflies have excellent vision and are particularly drawn to bold, bright colors as well as patterns. Their eyes contain receptors that allow them to see ultraviolet light, enabling them to spot nectar guides on flowers. The vibrant colors and patterns that humans wear, like clothing with floral prints, grab the attention of butterflies searching for flowers. Brightly colored hair accessories, jewelry, shoes and bags also attract interest. Butterflies are less attracted to muted, camouflaging colors.

Carbon Dioxide

Humans and other animals emit carbon dioxide when breathing. Butterflies specifically look for CO2 as a cue to find flowers to feed on. The CO2 given off by people acts as an signal that food is nearby. This is why expelling a breath on a butterfly is often enough to attract it to come closer for a feeding opportunity. The breath resembles the exhalations from plants and flowers.

Sweat and Moisture

Butterfly species like yellow pierids, blues, and daggerwings are drawn to the salt in human sweat and skin oils. Butterflies will congregate on people to lap up the salt and moisture, especially if regular food sources are scarce. The moisture also allows butterflies to carry out essential functions like dissolving solids and cooling their bodies. Areas where sweat accumulates, like feet, elbow creases and underarms, are common landing spots.


Butterflies are most abundant in meadows, fields, gardens, parks and other places where open space and food sources are plentiful. If you are in these environments, butterflies are simply more likely to be found there and may inspect or land on a nearby human. Walking through an area bursting with wildflowers and blossoming plants will attract more butterflies than a barren urban area.

Factor Description
Scent Attracted to perfumes, skin oils, breath
Color Drawn to bright colors and floral patterns
Carbon Dioxide Use CO2 to locate food sources like flowers
Sweat & Moisture Seek out salt and moisture from human sweat
Location Find more butterflies in meadows, fields, gardens

Do Butterflies Bite or Sting Humans?

While the thought of being swarmed by pretty butterflies sounds idyllic, some people may worry about potential danger from these insects. The good news is that butterflies do not bite or sting. They lack any means of injecting venom or piercing human skin. Butterfly mouths are designed to sip nectar through a curled proboscis like a drinking straw – they do not have mandibles for biting or stingers.

At most, having a butterfly land on you may feel like a faint tickle as they walk across your skin. Their legs are designed for grasping onto flowers, not for scratching or grasping human skin. Even people with insect allergies rarely experience issues from butterfly contact. Rest assured these creatures are harmless to humans.

Do Humans Poses Any Threat to Butterflies?

Although butterflies present no danger to us, human activities can threaten these delicate creatures. Here are some of the major hazards that butterflies face:

Habitat Loss

The expansion of cities, housing, commercial agriculture and roads claims open land needed by butterflies for foraging and breeding. Many species have declined due to prairies, woodlands and other habitats being razed.


Chemical pesticides and herbicides used in farming and gardening can be toxic to pollinators. These compounds can lethally poison butterflies and contaminate areas where they feed and lay eggs.

Climate Change

Warming temperatures and changing rain patterns are disrupting butterfly life cycles. The timing of their emergence and seasonal behaviors are becoming mismatched with the availability of food plants and other key resources.

Diseases & Parasites

Protozoan parasites like Ophryocystis elektroscirrha can debilitate and kill monarch butterfly populations. Other diseases flourish under environmental stressors such as habitat loss.

Invasive Species

Non-native plants and predators increasingly encroach on butterfly habitats. They may outcompete native vegetation, spread disease, or prey on butterfly eggs and larvae.

Threat Impact on Butterflies
Habitat Loss Destruction of feeding and breeding grounds
Pesticides Poison vital pollinator species
Climate Change Disrupt life cycles dependent on timing
Diseases & Parasites Debilitate and kill populations
Invasive Species Outcompete native plants and prey on young

When Are Butterflies Most Active and Abundant?

Butterfly activity levels and numbers vary considerably over the course of a year. Here is an overview of when butterflies tend to be most lively and populous:


Springtime brings emerging butterflies that have overwintered as pupae or adults. Warming temperatures stimulate breeding activity and fuel plant growth that butterflies need for food. Spring provides ideal conditions for spotted fritillaries, painted ladies, swallowtails, sulfurs and hairstreaks to flourish.


Butterfly populations peak in summer when conditions are warm, sunny and dry. Summer-flying species like crescents, coppers, skippers, admirals and heliconians thrive. Abundant midsummer flowers offer nutrition for adults and caterpillars alike.


Many butterflies can be spotted fluttering about in autumn to fuel up on nectar before migrating or entering diapause. Good autumn sightings include monarchs, ladies, sulphurs, anglewings and some swallowtails before the first frost.


While most butterflies disappear in winter, a few species manage to remain active as adults all year long in sufficiently warm climates, such as the mourning cloak, tortoiseshell, and yellow butterflies. Otherwise, most butterflies will be dormant over the winter as pupae or eggs/larvae.

Season Butterfly Activity
Spring Emergence, breeding, feeding on spring flowers
Summer Population peaks, ideal warm and dry conditions
Fall Fueling up before migration or diapause
Winter Mostly dormant besides some hardy species

How to Attract More Butterflies

If you enjoy seeing butterflies and want to bring more to your yard or garden, here are some tips:

Plant Native Vegetation

Butterflies rely on specific native plants for feeding and breeding. Plant wildflowers, milkweed, asters, coneflowers and other regional plants butterflies evolved with.

Include Diverse Flora

Have a mixture of shrubs, wildflowers, grasses and flowering trees to provide nectar and host sites year-round. Varied plants support more species.

Supply Nutrients

rots and overripe fruit provide essential nutrients butterflies need. Mud puddles are also loaded with salts/minerals that butterflies drink.

Shelter from Wind

Butterflies need shelter from harsh winds which disrupt their flights and breeding. Plant clusters of shrubs and trees to provide windbreaks.

Leave Room for Basking

Butterflies bask in sun to raise their body temperature. Leave open, sunny patches for basking and puddling areas to drink and take in minerals.

Avoid Pesticides

Chemical pest control methods are highly toxic. Opt for natural, non-toxic solutions to maintain an eco-friendly habitat.

Tactic Outcome
Native Plants Food and breeding sites
Diverse Flora Year-round nectar sources
Nutrients Fruit and mud provide key minerals
Wind Shelter Prevent harsh winds from disturbing
Sunny Basking Spots Allows butterflies to raise body temperature
Avoid Pesticides Reduce toxicity in the habitat

Fun Facts About Butterfly Attraction to Humans

– Butterflies like Ophrys butterflies are attracted to human body odor since they resemble female butterfly pheromones. They will try to mate with people!

– Some butterflies will feed on human blood and tears for sodium. They have special mouthparts to pierce skin.

– Certain blue and yellow clothing colors attract more butterflies than red shades.

– Butterflies swarm newly washed clothes since they retain more moisture.

– Male butterflies will seek out human urine for puddling minerals. This is why they congregate near outside urinals.

– The Tree Nymph butterfly of the Philippines follows moving humans since they resemble tree branches waving in wind.


Butterflies clearly find humans intriguing and attractive for a number of reasons. Our breath, sweat, skin oils, clothing colors and motions all mimic signals that draw butterflies in looking for food, mates, warmth and moisture. And while butterflies pose no danger to us, human activities threaten their natural habitats and breeding success. Providing a safe, ecological garden environment will allow these beautiful creatures to flourish and brighten any yard with their living rainbows. The more that we understand what attracts butterflies to us, the better we can support healthy populations of these essential pollinators. Their graceful beauty and friendly visits will continue to delight adults and children alike.