Some butterflies, like monarchs, are lovely but sadly toxic to eat. Lucky for the butterflies, only a few members of the Lepidoptera family are edible to humans.
If you hear someone talking about ‘butterflied’ food, it’s just a cut of meat that looks like a butterfly. What do butterflies taste like?
Butterflies taste bland or slightly bitter depending on the species and offer little to no nutritional value for humans. However, you should not eat butterflies in the wild because some are toxic and can cause illness, stomach upset, and nausea. Unfortunately, butterflies and other insects can pick up fungal and bacterial infections and potentially pass them on to you.
What Does Butterflies Taste Like
Butterflies aren’t known for their flavors. Unfortunately, that means butterflies taste like bland toast, except when they’re bitter, which could indicate the presence of toxins.
The few members of the Lepidoptera or butterfly and moth family that are edible probably taste better cooked and spiced than raw.
Do Butterflies Taste Like Butter
Butterflies do not taste like butter. Despite the name, the lovely insects have nothing in common with the dairy product.
Moreover, as egg-laying insects, butterflies don’t produce any milk of their own. Instead, they opt to lay their eggs on whatever plants the caterpillars eat and leave them to hatch and fend for themselves.
The exact origin of the name butterfly isn’t recorded. However, according to the Carleton Canada Department of Biology, there are three highly likely reasons. None of them have to do with flavor, but oddly some have to do with the eating habits of the insects.
- “Butterflies might be named for the color of their excrement. Old Dutch had the term “boterschijte,” which literally means “butter $#!t” … their first poop upon emerging from the chrysalis, called “meconium,” is brightly colored, often yellow or orange.”
- Butterflies eat poop. Plus, while they come in every color of the rainbow, some are the bright yellow color of butter, so this might also be a reason to name them boterschijte. If you saw a yellow insect sitting on top of a pile of poop, you might call it a butter ‘poop’ too.
- Other German names include milchdieb, which means thief of milk, and molkendieb or whey-thief. When milk separates, it splits into curds and whey. People in the Middle Ages may have thought they stole butter or seen them drinking milk for the sugars inside.
Do Butterflies Taste Like Blood
Butterflies do not taste like blood, but they do enjoy the taste of blood, tears, urine, and poop. Since their diet consists primarily of nectar, they need the salts found in waste products and other bodily fluids.
Additionally, they can supplement their nutrient and mineral needs by slurping up these odd and somewhat disgusting meal alternatives.
When butterflies first emerge from the chrysalis, they often come out along with a rust-colored ooze that looks like blood.
However, the liquid is actually waste products and the remains of their caterpillar bodies that didn’t get used in creating their new form. These insects don’t have blood of their own.
In place of blood, they use a substance called hemolymph. Butterflies have a system of capillaries in their wings that allows their bodies to provide nutrients to their extremities via hemolymph.
Not only is the color different, but the consistency and, as a result, the flavor is also unique.
Scientific American and Rob DeSalle, Curator in the Division of Invertebrate Zoology at the American Museum of Natural History, said, “… vertebrate blood contains red blood cells. Insects and other invertebrates, on the other hand, have what is called hemolympha heterogeneous fluid that courses through their bodies, bathing all the internal tissues. Hemolymph is mostly water, but it also contains ions, carbohydrates, lipids, glycerol, amino acids, hormones, some cells, and pigments. The pigments, however, are usually rather bland, and thus insect blood is clear or tinged with yellow or green.”
What Butterflies Are Edible
Most butterflies that are edible aren’t eaten in their adult forms. Instead, they are cooked and spiced during the chrysalis stage. I’ve compiled a short list of the most popular members of Lepidoptera to eat.
I have included moths since butterflies are widely believed to have evolved from moths.
- Bamboo Worm or Omphisa fuscidentalis lives in Asia. Predictably, the Bamboo Worm is named for its habitat in cool bamboo forests found in China, northern Myanmar, and Laos, or Thailand.
- Maguey Worm or Aegiale hesperiaris, also sometimes called the Tequila Giant Skipper, is one of the few notably flavored butterflies. They are supposed to taste a little like pork cracklins but with a nutty addition.
- Mopane Worm or Gonimbrasia Belina is native to southern Africa. They are a popular food because of their size and the fact that they are around sixty percent protein. These insects also have phosphorus, iron, and calcium, making them a healthy snack.
- Silk Worms are best known for their strong, soft threads, which have been harvested for thousands of years to make silk fabric. However, early silk production facilities workers were lucky because they never went hungry with these edible insects around.
Can You Eat Butterflies
You can eat butterflies, but that doesn’t make it a good idea. If you plan to make a meal out of Lepidoptera, it’s probably best to get them from a source like a restaurant where they’re raised or at least professionally cooked and cleaned for human consumption.
Picking the wrong bug could make you very ill, and there are even moths that can kill you.
Helpful Tips To Know About What Butterflies Taste Like
Most people will never eat a butterfly on purpose, which is probably for the best. Whether they are toxic like monarchs or merely flavorless and without nutritional value, there’s no real reason to eat a butterfly. There are much healthier insects to eat.
Here are more helpful tips to know about what butterflies taste like.
- Considering how much nectar butterflies sip, you might expect them to be sweet. However, these active insects have high metabolisms, and they convert the sugars into energy very quickly, leaving nothing to add flavor to their almost nonexistent meat. Moreover, most creatures don’t taste anything like the foods they eat, or at best, there’s a slight hint of an otherwise strong flavor.
- Speaking of taste, butterflies literally have no tastebuds in their mouths. Instead, they use their feet and legs to taste things they land on.
- Butterflies are susceptible to more than just bacteria and fungus. They can also get parasites. However, most problems humans can get from insects involve getting bitten, which is impossible with butterflies because they don’t have teeth or mouths. Instead, they have a hollow straw-like proboscis, so all they can do is sip your sweat.
I don’t recommend eating wild butterflies since you can make yourself sick or even catch an infection. There are a few members of Lepidoptera that you can eat like silkworms, but the average butterfly is more of a risk than a food.
Unfortunately, butterflies don’t make a tasty meal as pretty as they are. Like flowers, which are also a lot of fun to look at, most butterflies aren’t edible, and some are toxic.