We all know that butterflies are quite light, like most flying insects, or they would not be able to fly the way they do. But what happens to the butterfly if it gets windy?
As a whole, butterflies are able to fly on a windy day without any issues by either riding the wind or by using their wings to steer in the right direction. Butterflies have proportionally very big wings compared to their body allowing them to steer in the air even on very windy days.
Some butterflies will avoid flying on windy days because even though they could fly it is much more tiring than flying on a calm summer day.
So you will often see butterflies sitting on trees or in bushes on a windy day climbing from flower to flower instead of flying.
According to the BBC, scientists have tested the maneuverability of butterflies in a wind tunnel and were quite surprised to see how well the butterflies were able to maneuver even in strong winds to their desired destination.
Butterflies would clap their wings behind their backs or twist their wings to create mini whirlwinds under them to steer through strong winds.
Some butterflies even use strong winds to their advantage to migrate to another location either to overwinter or to find more food.
Where Do Butterflies Go When it is Windy?
Not every butterfly likes to fly on windy days, however, so you will often see fewer butterflies flying around when it is windy outside. So where do the other butterflies go when it is windy?
As a whole, some butterflies don´t like to fly when it is windy so they often search for a place that has some flowers where the wind won´t bother them. This includes bushes and trees where they usually climb from one flower to another without needing to fly at all.
Sometimes butterflies also hide in tall grass or between dead branches if the wind is getting too strong for them.
But even though butterflies prefer to not fly on windy days that doesn´t mean that they are not more than capable to navigate through the air even on very windy days.
Butterflies Don´t Like Rain
Even though they are able to fly when it is windy they are not able to fly when it rains. Butterflies don´t like rain because of what happens when their wings get wet.
When butterfly wings get wet the butterfly won´t be able to fly anymore because the wings will be too heavy to lift. Butterflies will hide in a dry place near the ground or on a tree on rainy days. They are able to fly again if their wings got wet after drying them in the sun for a while.
Butterflies can sense the coming rain and often hide long before it starts to rain.
They will start to hide as soon as they see dark skies, feel a heavy breeze, or spot the first raindrops.
But sometimes they can be caught by it off guard and their wings can get wet. In which case they will often fall to the ground as they are not able to fly with wet wings for very long.
They will then sit out the rain searching for a safe and mostly dry hiding spot.
Once the rain is over the butterfly will come out of its hiding spot and dry its wings in the sun.
As soon as the wings are dry the butterfly can fly again and continue its search for foot or a new mate.
Sometimes however the wings can be damaged by heavy rain or the butterfly can drown in the rainwater. So it is in their best interest to hide as soon as the slightest indicator of rain is seen.
Can Butterflies Fly Above the Clouds?
Butterflies are interesting insects that are able to manage impressive feats including flying as high as some migrating birds. But how high can butterflies really fly and can they fly above the clouds?
Some butterflies, like monarch butterflies, are able to fly above the clouds. When butterflies are migrating they will fly as high as 11,000 feet which is high enough to be above some clouds. They will often ride the strong winds that are present at such heights to migrate to another location.
Monarch butterflies are known to be able to reach heights as far up as 11,00 feet when they are migrating.
They use strong winds that carry them up to that height and then they let themselves carry to a new area where they will overwinter.
How to Help Butterflies When it Gets Windy or When it Rains
If you want to help butterflies and other insects when it rains or when it gets windy then there are a couple of things that you can do.
You can put an insect hotel in your garden to give insects something to live and find shelter in. This can easily be done by screwing a couple of differently sized holes in a log and then putting it in a shadowy spot in your garden.
You can also buy insect hotels or a butterfly home for your garden to give butterflies a place where they can find shelter when it rains.
You can also put some faux nectar out after a rainy day to give butterflies something to eat and regain their strength. You can make faux nectar by mixing one part honey and three parts water.
Put the faux nectar in a shallow tray or dish and put it outside where the butterflies can find and reach it.
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 🙂