General Question

Nimis's avatar

Have you ever seen butter attract butterflies?

Asked by Nimis (13245points) June 4th, 2012 from iPhone

Another question reminded me of an old question I had.

Why are butterflies called butterflies?

A quick Google search pulled up various entomological examples of how they were known to be attracted to butter or lick milk. (Milchdiebe or milk thief in German.)

I cannot, for the life of me, recall any such incident.

Have I just never seen this before?

Or is this just a myth? If so, how in the world would it have originated?

Or is it that much of the butter today is so processed (versus fresh hand-churned butter), that they’re no longer attracted to it?

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15 Answers

lillycoyote's avatar

I’ve never observed the phenomenon but that is, perhaps, because I never leave my butter outside where butterflies can get to it. Maybe I’ll give a try and see what happens.

Sunny2's avatar

Science time. Every one who has butterflies flocking to your back back yard, put out a bit of butter and see if there are any takers. Do this for one week, then reconnoiter here to exchange observations. I’ll have to be the collator because I have neither a yard nor any butterflies. Time starts NOW!

syz's avatar

I’ve seen the salts in urine attract butterflies.

CWOTUS's avatar

Per a response from @Sunny2 in this thread, the word butterfly may have been a mondogreen (or Spoonerism) at one time.

I was once told – though I can’t find an online reference for it – that those insects were once known as “flutterby”, and someone miscalled it a “butterfly”. That name seemed to stick.

gasman's avatar

I also read that the original term was flutterby, which became contorted by popular mis-usage into butterfly.

Sunny2's avatar

I just looked up the origin of butterfly and it was butterfly. People thought the insects liked butter. The Germans thought they liked cream. As @CWOTUS said, flutterby was a spoonerism. (And it’s so apt.) Google butterfly/flutterby. There are butterfly celebrations.

Fyrius's avatar

Possibly helpful: Wiktionary has the word’s etymology listed.

Middle English buterflie, butturflye, boterflye, from Old English butorflēoge, buttorflēoge, buterflēoge, perhaps a compound of butor- ‘beater’, mutation of bēatan ‘to beat’, and flēoge ‘fly’.[1] More at beat and fly.
Alternate etymology connects the first element to butere (“butter”), as the name may have originally been applied solely to butterflies of a yellowish or butter-coloured blee. This may have merged later with the belief that butterflies ate milk and butter (compare Middle High German molkendiep (“butterfly”, literally “milk-thief”); Modern German Molkendieb and Low German Botterlicker (“butterfly”, literally “butter-licker”)), or that they excreted a butter-like substance (compare Middle Dutch boterschijte (“butterfly ”, literally “butter-shitter”)). Compare also Middle Dutch botervliege (“butterfly”) (Dutch botervlieg), German Butterfliege (“butterfly”). More at butter, fly.

Nimis's avatar

Hmmm…most people seem to be answering Why are butterflies called butterflies? That answer can be found through a quick google search. Not a spoonerism—though I really dig that word. Many other cultures have a variation of butterfly. (Anglo-Saxons called them butterfloeges.)

I’m curious about the actual phenomenon that created this entomology. Supposedly, they’re attracted to butter. Has anyone seen this?

@syz You’ve seen urine attract butterflies? How do you figure it’s the salt?

citizenearth's avatar

It is just that – a myth arised from some misconception in the past.

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Fyrius's avatar

Now I’m wondering what undyed butter looks like. I’m imagining it being purple with orange spots.

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Fyrius's avatar

Ha. You’re quite welcome, friend.
I was being a little silly though. :)

Nimis's avatar

Kind of amused that a user named ButerFlage answered my question!

@ButerFlage Welcome to Fluther!

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