When you think of butterflies, what comes into your mind? Beautiful, elegant, colorful, and, delicate are some of the adjectives when describing its appearance. As for its food source, butterflies sip nectar from equally beautiful flowers, right?
Wrong! Butterflies do consume nectar but their diet belies their attractive countenance. Equally as commonly as they consume nectar, butterflies can also feast on mud, sweat and tears, decaying flesh, blood, urine, and poop! Nectar is just one food group for butterflies and doesn’t provide all the necessary nutrients. Instead butterflies had to source their nutrients from elsewhere.
Puddling comes from “mud puddling”, which some butterfly species crowd on mud and suck up substance to obtain salt and proteins. When a butterflies lands on you, most likely it’s interested in you for the salt in your sweat. Since a lot of puddlers are males, it is believed that the males need the sodium for reproduction purposes. Waste is another food source for butterflies that we viewed as disgusting. For butterflies, waste provide a lot of nutrients such as salt and minerals. Butterflies are one of the few animals that can recycle their own urine as some do like to drink their own.
Meanwhile flies and other animals with similar diets are certainly bashed for the same habits. Their gruesome appearance doesn’t help them win our hearts. In addition, their habits would mean they are likely carrying bacteria that would infect us if we contact anything they have already had landed on. For that reason, the disgust of flies is understandable. Due to butterflies landing on decaying flesh and dung for their diet, it is unlikely they would be as clean as we thought them to be.
If butterflies eat such disgusting things, why do we not know about it? It’s because butterflies have one of the best public relations departments around. That and because we are willing to overlook their habits because of their beauty. Marketing and public relations shape our perceptions of the world regardless whether the message is based on facts or not. Two different subjects can receive different receptions and reactions despite having the same flaws and taking the same actions. Our bias can enable us to overlook flaws in one subject but allows us to bash another subject for the same flaws. This principle is very applicable to the example of mass media influencing political opinions on the world regardless of the reporting is based on facts and truth or not. Exaggerations, omission of crucial facts, and taking concepts out of context can change the reactions. There is so much noise that research more on the subject would help us obtain a clearer picture. Even that requires discerning credible sources.