Butterfly sipping nectar: is this just a cold transaction?

Butterfly in wildflowers

It’s tempting to assume other living things experience the world pretty much as we do. While resizing this picture, I was thinking how much fun butterflies must have in a flower meadow – swinging on flowers while they sip a little nectar, perhaps comparing flavours and seeking out the ones they like best, then fluttering off to the next field… 

I was brought down to earth by learning that they don’t have mouths – what I’d thought of as a long, sensitive tongue turns out to be more like a straw. Butterflies decide what to land on by sight, then use chemical receptors in their feet to work out if it’s worth staying or not.

Butterfly or Person Checklist

I try not to envy people, but when it comes to creatures, I do sometimes imagine what life might be like for them. For example, would I prefer:

To be able to fly? Yes please!

Colourful wings? Might be nice, assuming one could fold them away.

To be nearsighted? Tick – got that!

To be able to see ultraviolet light? I’d try it for an hour in a flower field.

A straw rather than a mouth? Nope. Just asking for trouble.

Taste receptors on my feet? After yesterday’s seven mile walk around the Tolkien Trail, I don’t think so! If they were all I had – and were washed by the dew on flowers – I’d make the most of them. 

To be mature for just a few weeks? No, I like getting older. It’s great. 

On balance?

You’ve guessed it, I’m happy to be human, but my humanity cries out that science can only tell us so much.

I find it hard to believe that the exchange of service for service in nature is merely a cold transaction: that butterflies find no delight in those brief, miraculous days when they can fly, mate, and sip nectar from flowers, pollinating them as they brush by.


7 Replies to “Butterfly sipping nectar: is this just a cold transaction?”

  1. Your post is a beautiful blend of nature, science and humor. I love nature. This picture is so beautiful. Butterflies are most beautiful flies(insects?). I don’t know 🙂

    Anand 🙂

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