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Do Butterflies Bleed When They Hatch?

Written By Sara Sabharwal


Do Butterflies Bleed When They Hatch

You may be one of the lucky few who have spotted a butterfly emerge from their cocoon. When the adult butterfly emerges, you may expect blood or other liquids to be present. But do butterflies bleed when they hatch or not? 

No, butterflies do not bleed when they hatch. Butterflies do not have blood as humans or other animals do. Instead, they have a clear liquid inside that acts as blood.

However, the red substance you may see near a freshly emerged butterfly is meconium, not blood.

Meconium is the leftover remnants of the caterpillar that was stored in the intestines of the butterfly. The adult butterfly would excrete the meconium within the first few hours of emerging. 

What is Meconium in Butterflies?

Caterpillars consume a large amount of food for energy before they enter their cocoon. This energy has to allow them to completely melt away and be rearranged into the butterfly. Growing wings can be a tiring and gruelling activity. 

Once the butterfly has emerged, you may notice red liquid coming from the butterfly or drops located near the cocoon. This may look like blood and can be incredibly alarming.

However, this substance is entirely natural. It is called meconium. 

Meconium is a red substance that the adult butterfly excretes once it has emerged from the cocoon.

The substance is the leftover parts of the caterpillar that the butterfly did not need. The remnants were stored in the intestines of the butterfly, and once the butterfly has stretched its new wings, it excretes the leftovers.

Why Do Butterflies Release Meconium When They Hatch? 

Meconium is not exclusive to butterflies. Even human babies release meconium when they are born. Meconium in human infants is the first stool after birth and is usually incredibly dark in colour and sticky in texture. 

Like the butterfly, human infant meconium is a waste product of growth. In the case of infants, there is a chance of meconium being released while still in utero.

Butterflies do not need to worry about such a scare. They will release their meconium once they have fully hatched from their chrysalis. Since the meconium is the leftover waste product of metamorphosis, the butterfly has no reason to keep it. 

Once the butterfly emerges from its chrysalis, it takes a few hours for the newly winged creatures to be able to fly.

During this time, the butterfly will stretch its wings in the sun. This allows the wings to dry out completely and teaches the butterfly how to use these new muscles. 

Once the butterfly is ready, it will take off and fly away to find food, shelter, and a mate. 

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Do Butterflies Have Blood Inside Them?

So if the substance released from butterflies after they hatch looks like blood but is not blood, do they even have blood in their bodies?

Butterflies do not have blood the way that we think of blood. What they do have is called hemolymph. Hemolymph is a clear substance that acts as blood in butterflies and some other insects. 

Hemo itself means blood and lymph is a colourless substance that contains white blood cells. Together, hemolymph is a life source for butterflies. 

Butterflies also have a heart-like organ that pumps the hemolymph from the back of the body to the front and back again. This ensures that all the butterfly’s organs are properly bathed in the hemolymph. 

Many scientists did not think butterfly wings had any blood or hemolymph in them for a long time. However, it is now known that their wings are incredibly complex. Each wing has its own “wing heart”. These hearts pump blood through each of the wings.

Butterfly wings are full of cells. Some are specialized cells that help the butterfly feel and adjust to temperatures. When these cells are warm, the butterfly uses the warmth to help strengthen and relax its wings.

Do Butterflies Bleed Red?

No, butterflies do not bleed red, or any colour. They do produce a red substance when they hatch from their cocoon, but this substance is not blood. It is

Do Butterflies Drink Blood?

Yes! Butterflies will drink the blood from some vertebrates to obtain nutrients that are not present in nectar. They will also suck fluids up from poop, mud and carrion.


Meconium is a substance released from freshly hatched butterflies. While it looks similar to blood, it is leftover remnants of the caterpillar that were not needed to complete the butterfly. 

Butterflies release the meconium rather soon after hatching. It generally takes a few hours for the butterfly to become used to its new wings before it can fly away in search of food and a mate.

Butterflies do not have blood in the same sense as humans or animals. They have a clear liquid called hemolymph that their bodies pump. Butterflies have multiple hearts and even have specialized cells in their wings.

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