Why Do Butterflies Land on You? (Answered)

Butterflies commonly visit our gardens and flowers, but sometimes they do wander closer and land on our skin or clothing. So then, why do butterflies land on you? That’s exactly what we’re going to discuss in this article.

If you find a butterfly landing on you, try not to grab it! You can easily damage the delicate wings of these flying insects when you handle them and might find a powdery residue left behind. This powder is actually tiny scales that cover their wings to stabilize and strengthen their wings.

But why are butterflies attracted to us and land on us? Let’s find out what it means scientifically and spiritually when you get a friendly visit. This article will cover answers to why do butterflies land on you, what it means, what can happen, and what species are most likely to land on you.

Learn the answers to these major questions!

Why do butterflies land on you?

Despite the common belief that all butterflies feed on nectar flowers only, they actually need other substances in their diet, such as salt. The main reason butterflies will land on you is because they are attracted to the salt in your sweat. Your sweat can also give them a boost of minerals and proteins to supplement their diet.

Butterflies are even known to be attracted to tears for similar reasons. Scientists have observed butterflies drinking tears from tortoises and other animals, for instance, the Julia butterfly (Dryas iulia) was seen drinking the tears of caiman crocodiles.

Why do butterflies need salt?

Butterflies typically need salt and other minerals for reproduction. Most butterflies that drink salt are males since they incorporate the minerals and salt into their sperm. These nutrients are then transferred to females during mating to improve the survival rates of their eggs.

Besides landing on you, you can often see butterflies on moist ground, such as mud puddles for salt. This behavior is known as “puddling.”


What does it mean when a butterfly lands on you?

Besides the scientific reasons previously mentioned, people also wonder about the spiritual meaning of a butterfly landing on you. While there are many interpretations, a common one relates to spiritual growth because of the metamorphosis life cycle of butterflies. They go from eggs to caterpillars to chrysalis before transforming to butterflies and thus symbolize the need to have introspection in our lives and be reborn as better versions of ourselves.

Other common spiritual meanings for a butterfly landing on you include:

  • Good fortune
  • New beginnings in career, relationships, or life approach
  • You aren’t alone and your guardian angel is there
  • Upcoming changes and transitions
  • Immortality, according to ancient Chinese and Greek cultures

What butterfly species are likely to land on you?

Some butterfly species such as monarchs, get the salt they need from the milkweed plants making up most of their diet. However, other species need to supplement their diet with salt from substrates on the ground or sweat on your skin and clothing. Examples of species that will most likely land on you are:

  • Tiger swallowtails (Papilio glaucus)
  • Red admirals (Vanessa atalanta)
  • Painted ladies (Vanessa cardui)
  • Commas (Polygonia c-album)
  • Pierids (Pieridae)
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tiger swallowtail butterfly

What do different butterflies symbolize?

Some cultures go even further to define the meaning of different butterfly species landing on you beyond the general ones listed above. For example, the monarch butterfly typically is associated with expansion and the butterfly effect concept. It’s a good omen you will be getting good news and positive changes.

Different colored butterflies can also represent different meanings, such as:

  • Blue butterfly: creative power and your wishes coming true
  • White and black butterfly: death of a loved one, however, they will always be with you
  • Yellow and black butterfly: change or death, including positive changes and death of old beliefs
  • Vibrant orange: passion and life, change your approach, or become more social
  • Dark orange: emotional upheavals

Other questions

Can a butterfly bite you?

No, a butterfly can’t bite you. When they land on your skin they are licking the salt off but don’t have jaws or mouthparts large enough to bite. Instead, their mouthparts are long and curled similar to drinking straws.

Some caterpillars can bite, however. Caterpillars have jaws to chew on the leaves of their host plants, so although it is rare, some threatened caterpillar species may bite you.

Do butterflies suck your blood?

No, butterflies won’t puncture your skin and suck up your blood like mosquitos. However, if you have a cut and are bleeding they may land on you to lick your blood. Blood contains sodium and amino acid, which are minerals butterflies need to supplement their diets.

If you do see a butterfly-looking insect on you that is sucking your blood, it’s probably a vampire moth (Calyptra). These moths can puncture your skin and suck blood for up to 50 minutes!

vampire moth | image by Ilia Ustyantsev via Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

Conclusion

While there are plenty of spiritual meanings behind what a butterfly landing on you symbolizes, such as spiritual growth and good fortune, the scientific reason is less romantic. The main reason you will find a butterfly landing on you is to lick off the sweat from your skin or clothes. Butterflies need sodium from salt to supplement their mostly nectar diet and they find this from sweat or substrates on the ground. So, although it is most likely that you are sweaty and get a butterfly visit, it could also mean you are coming into some positive changes!