Butterflies, much like other insects, have similar senses to us humans that often work very differently. But many insects lack important senses that we humans have, like hearing, seeing, or taste. This leads us to the question, can butterflies hear, and if yes, how well?
As a whole, most butterflies can´t hear but some species of butterflies have the ability to hear some frequencies. Butterflies don´t have ears, however, they hear by using cavities on the base of their wings that are covered with membranes. This is functionally very similar to how our ears hear.
Why some butterfly species have the ability to hear is not known but it is speculated that those butterfly species can hear the flapping of the wings of potential predators. So they use it as an early waring system against predators.
How Can Butterflies Hear?
Butterflies don´t have ears, this much we know, but how do the species that are able to hear manage to hear anything without ears?
Some butterflies are able to hear by using small cavities on the base of their wings that are covered by membranes. Sound waves will vibrate these membranes making it possible for the butterfly to hear certain frequencies.
Butterflies are fairly limited in their ability to hear and different butterfly species can hear different frequencies which is why it is assumed that butterflies use their ability to hear to listen for sounds that might warn them from predators.
It is also assumed that some butterflies like the monarch butterfly use veins that run through their wings to assist them in hearing more frequencies.
These veins are filled with air which would make it possible to pick up different frequencies than the cavities on the base of the butterflies wings.
Butterflies communicate by scent using pheromones and by flapping their wings. They identefy their own species by the color and patterns on their wings. So they don´t make sounds and they don´t use their hearing for communicating like we do.
Which means they don´t rely as much on hearing compared to us. That is also why not every butterfly species can hear and even those who do can´t hear very well.
Lisa is one of the two founders of Animal-Knowledge. She has been very interested in animals and insects from a very young age and has owned different kinds of pets such as snails, ants, fish, turtles, mice, rats, hamsters, rabbits, a dog, … you get the idea 🙂