Can you eat butterflies?

In this article, we will answer the question “Can you eat butterflies?”. Including this, we will also get into the details of different types of butterflies, how they are different from each other and which types of butterflies are suitable for eating. We will also discuss the types of butterflies which are not edible.

Can you eat butterflies?

Yes, you can eat butterflies but not all species of butterflies are edible. Consuming butterflies is not a good choice as it can have side effects on the person who is consuming them but still, some species of butterflies are suitable for eating. 

Also, which type is better for consumption depends on the type of food being taken up by the butterflies.

The species of butterflies who feed on plants like milkweed plants are not edible, instead are toxic if eaten. These plants possess high levels of compounds like cardenolides which are poisonous compounds and make a person sick if ingested. 

The monarch butterfly is a species of butterfly that has evolved itself to feed on these plants. Hence, these compounds stay in their systems thus, making the adult butterfly and larvae toxic.

The other species of butterfly, which do not feed on toxic plants, are safe if a person ingests them. For safe consumption, the person should be able to distinguish between toxic and non-toxic butterflies, in case both species look similar.

Classification of butterfly

Butterflies are the insects that are classified under the kingdom Animalia. They belong to the superfamily Hedylidae which comes under the suborder Rhopalocera of the order Lepidoptera which is the same group to which moths belong. The order Lepidoptera belongs to the class Insecta of Phylum Arthropoda. 

Butterflies are first in the form of larvae which then transform into a complete adult butterfly. The adult butterflies have large wings which are often bright in colours.

The life cycle of butterflies

The life cycle of butterflies comprises four distinct stages each of which has a specific distinct shape of butterfly at each point. The life cycle of butterflies is known as metamorphosis which is a Greek word meaning transformation or change in shape. 

The four distinct stages of the life cycle of butterflies are:

  • Egg
  • Larva
  • Pupa
  • Adult


The first stage is the egg stage which is laid by female butterflies on plants which then become the food of caterpillars which are formed after hatching. These eggs are laid in spring, summer or fall which completely depends on the species of butterfly.


The larva is the second stage which is also known as a caterpillar, in the case of butterflies. The larval stage is the eating stage during which the job is to eat and eat. This food that has been eaten during the larval stage can be used later at the adult stage. During this stage, the size of the caterpillar increases up to 100 times. 


The pupa is the transition stage where the caterpillar has completely grown up. The pupa is also known as a chrysalis. The pupa after being formed hides under the plant or in the leaf which completely depends on the species of butterfly.

The pupa is the variable stage that lasts for a week to even longer than a week. Some species of butterflies have their pupa stages lasting for two years.


It is the stage when a butterfly completely develops with long legs, long antennae and compound eyes along with colourful wings. They can not grow anymore but the adult stage is the stage of mating and reproduction. This stage may last for one or two weeks.

Food of butterflies

The food which is eaten by animals affects how that animal tastes. That is why the diet or food being taken by butterflies is important.

Butterflies eat plants and their leaves when they are at the caterpillar stage but when they grow up their food changes from solid to liquid. The food of butterflies varies from nectar of flowers to decaying animals, fruits and dung.

Butterfly as food

Butterflies are most commonly eaten in the regions of Asia when they are at the pupa stage. Different species of butterflies can be eaten but it should be known before eating that the food of that butterfly should not be a toxic plant.

Besides this, there are some species of butterfly which are illegal to eat because of being on the endangered list. Some of the species which should not be eaten because they eat milkweed a toxic plant are:

  • Monarchs
  • Eastern Black Swallowtail
  • Viceroy
  • American Copper
  • Tailed blue
  • Spring Azure
  • Clouded Sulphur


In this article, we have answered the question “Can you eat butterflies?”. Moreover, we have also discussed the classification of butterflies, their life cycle, the food they eat, and which species should not be eaten.