Butterflies Vote With Their Feet

Monarch butterfly (photo by Kate St. John)

21 July 2022

When you “Vote with your feet” you show your opinion by leaving an organization or by no longer supporting, using, or buying something.

Butterflies vote with their feet — literally — for the opposite reason. They decide to stay.

After mating with a male, the female butterfly must go in search of a plant on which to lay her eggs. Because the caterpillars that will hatch from her eggs will be very particular about what they eat, she must be very particular in choosing a plant. She can recognize the right plant species by its leaf color and shape. Just to be sure, however, she may beat on the leaf with her feet. This scratches the leaf surface, causing a characteristic plant odor to be released. Once she is sure she has found the correct plant species, she will go about the business of egg-laying.

University of Kentucky: All About Butterflies

Sometimes this activity is called “tasting” the plant. Learn more and see photos of butterflies making the “stay or go” decision in this vintage article.

(photo by Kate St. John)

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