When I was thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail, there were times when I had a handful of moths or butterflies hovering around me, especially on really hot days. They would flit above my legs, touching them lightly, over and over again, as if kissing them. Often they would land, moving along slowly, their proboscis and wings feathering lightly against me. Have you ever had this happen to you? Why do they do this? The same reason they congregate at puddles, animal scat or urine on the forest floor–to get salt and valuable amino acids. The sweat on my skin made me highly attractive to these 6 legged creatures!
When butterflies or moths gather like this, it’s called puddling. (see a video of this HERE) It’s usually the males who are more attracted to these places for they incorporate these sodiums into their sperm, which are then passed along to the female. Sometimes you will see a bunch gathered on the ground, but see no visible signs of animal scat; it’s a pretty good bet that this was where some animal urinated. If it’s in the sun, it’s hard to resist.
Next time you see a bunch of butterflies hovering together on the ground, you’ll know why. If you’re a photographer, it’s a great way to get some close-up shots.