They Don’t Eat Butterflies, Do They?

Photo by Larry Ditto.

Recently, a colleague and I were discussing how university greenhouses could be more profitably used if they were filled with anoles. This led us to discussion of one particular local greenhouse, full of butterflies nattering about for no apparent purpose. I suggested that this would be a particularly good spot to introduce some anoles, because food would be at the ready, but she questioned whether anoles would, indeed, eat butterflies. I claimed they would, and she back-pedaled, stating that surely A. carolinensis at the least was not swift enough for such a feat.

Neither of us knowing the answer, we decided that some research must be done, so quickly moved to the computer. One quick Google Image search proved her wrong on all counts. Above is the most beautiful of the counterpoints, and here is the story that goes with it, from photographer Larry Ditto of McAllen, Texas: “What can I say?  I walked out into my front yard where there is a butterfly garden and saw this anole eating a queen.  The lizard was climbing an arching trellis with the butterfly in its mouth.  I assume it caught the queen as the butterfly fed at one of our mist flowers (there were many other queens nectaring at these plants).  I grabbed the camera and made many photos while the anole swallowed its prey.”

About Jonathan Losos

Professor and Curator of Herpetology at the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard University. I've spent my entire professional career studying anoles and have discovered that the more I learn about anoles, the more I realize I don't know.

3 thoughts on “They Don’t Eat Butterflies, Do They?

  1. I have a butterfly garden and I know for sure they eat butterflies eggs and the butterflies, sometimes I see just butterflies wings with no body. Thanks for sharing this picture that I would call beautiful if it wasn’t for the butterfly in the lizzard mouth.

    1. Oh yes they eat eggs! It is a tasty appetizer for them. I have watched them actually stalk and wait as the butterflies lay the eggs. They lie in wait to eat them but I am right there to rescue as many as I can!

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