Sleepy midwinter butterflies

sleeping butterfly
Common Albatross, sleeping

The short days and cool weather of our winter don’t stop our butterflies completely but do slow them down. Numbers drop off, and their hours of activity shrink.  As I noted years ago, most of them find quiet spots by about 3.30 each afternoon where they can rest safely until the temperature climbs again on the following morning. The one in my photo is doing just that, but I only spotted it because I saw it land.

Do butterflies really sleep?

As this site says, it “depends on your definition of sleep. If you want to define sleep as an inactive, low metabolic state: yes.  This low metabolic state is often driven by the temperature in the air.” Butterflies are ectothermic (“cold-blooded”, except that they don’t really have blood) so they need external warmth for their activity.

An extension of their overnight “sleep” is the over-winter hibernation which carries adults of some species through a long period of low temperatures and limited food supplies, even here in the tropics.

Do butterflies dream?

Probably not – but how could we know?