Entomology (Study of Bugs)/Nitrogenous Wastes


Dear Mr. Saugstad,

I know that in certain tropical areas, butterflies would land on the riverside, in order to take in the nitrogenous wastes that was urinated by some larger animals. And within these nitrogenous wastes, there is this substance that is a sort of necessary nutrition for these butterflies' flying activities.

My question, is butterfly the only insect that has this trait? In the entirety insects kingdom, is there any other insects that possess this diet habit as well?

Thank you thank you :)

Dear Johnnie - Butterflies and moths often seek out animal feces, urine, rotting carrion, wood ash and mud in order to complete their nutritional requirements (primarily sodium and nitrogen). This is especially true of males, who lose a substantial portion of nutrients in the transfer of a spermataphore to a female. Thus, they often are seen puddling together at the muddy edges of ponds and puddles; see http://tinyurl.com/oq86buw for a detailed analysis. Similar behavior has been noted in other insects, including certain grasshoppers: see http://tinyurl.com/oumvuwx . Also, many birds and mammals will seek out and consume soils rich in minerals see http://tinyurl.com/pgu4weg for details.

Hope this helps,

Entomology (Study of Bugs)

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Ed Saugstad


Will accept most questions in general entomology, including those related to medical entomology, taxonomy, ecology, arthropod surveillance, and pest management. If you are requesting a 'mystery bug' identification, PLEASE either attach an image to your question, or post an image on a web page (such as Flickr) so that I can look at it, as verbal descriptions frequently are insufficient for a definitive identification.


21 years in the U.S. Army as a medical entomologist; duties varied from surveillance of pest populations (including mosquitoes, cockroaches, ticks, and stored products pests) to conducting research on mosquito-virus ecological relationships and mosquito faunal studies. Ten years as a civilian analyst for the Department of Defense, primarily on distribution of vector-borne diseases worldwide. Limited experience on surveillance of agricultural insects in North Dakota and Indiana.

Entomological Society of America, West Virginia Entomological Society, Society for Vector Ecology, National Speleological Society, West Virginia Association for Cave Studies.

American Journal of Public Health, Contributions of the American Entomological Institute, Japanese Journal of Sanitary Zoology, Journal of Economic Entomology, Mosquito News, and Mosquito Systematics.

B.S. in entomology from North Dakota State University in 1963, M.S. in entomology from Purdue University in 1967.

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