Clusters of butterflies along hiking trails may be a beautiful sight, but the National Park Service warns that passersby may want to watch where they step the next time they see one.
Something truly gross is going on at the bottom of that pile of flapping wings.
“They may be beautiful, but beware! These butterflies are ‘puddling,’ which is when butterflies or moths feed on the salts and minerals found in mud puddles, urine, scat, and sometimes carrion,” said the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in a Facebook post.
In other words, you’re watching a poop buffet or the consumption of a rotting woodland creature.
The park service posted a video Saturday, captured by Allison Bate, of one such event, featuring “mostly male yellow tiger swallowtails butterflies puddling on a pile of scat.”
Tiger swallowtails have a wing span of up to four and a half inches and prefer living on the edges of forests where hiking trails are often located, according to Butterfliesandmoths.org.
“While these pollinators feed on mostly nectar, they do need other minerals in their diet,” explained the park staff in their post. “The extra salts and minerals aid in reproduction, giving more energy to fertilized eggs. Most of the time, you will see males puddling.”
The video has been viewed more than 16,000 times since Saturday, with dozens of commenters chiming in with wisecracks at the expense of the butterflies.
“Just proves that butterflies make everything look prettier,” wrote Shari Tipsword on the park’s Facebook page.
“Next time a butterfly lands on your nose, remember this!” posted Laurie Smalley.
“OK, totally changed my perception of butterflies!” wrote Norma Henrikson Cannon, on the park’s Facebook page.