Nearly all lepidopterans feed on flowering plants, but a few species prefer algae (AL-jee), or tiny plantlike organisms, growing underwater, funguses, mosses, or pine trees and their relatives. Most larvae will eat the tissues of just one or a few closely related plant species, but a few will feed on many kinds of plants. Most species feed on the outside of plants. Depending on the species they devour leaves, flowers, seeds, or buds. A few species of moth larvae roll up leaves to create a shelter to feed inside in safety. Some moth species bore into plants, eating wood inside tree trunks or softer tissues inside vine stems. A few moth and butterfly species are predators and attack flies, aphids, and scale insects. Butterfly larvae living inside ant nests eat the eggs, larvae, and pupae of their hosts. Other moth species steal insects from insect-eating pitcher plants or from spider webs. The caterpillars of clothes moths eat cloth, wool, fur, and feathers, while those of Indian mealmoths prefer dried fruit and stored grains. Still others scavenge the waste of birds and mammals.
Most adults drink nectar, fruit juices, and plant sap and will sometimes supplement their diets with pollen. Some will also take up mineral-rich fluids from mud, dead animals, and both liquid and solid animal waste. A few prefer fluids such as tears around the eyes of animals. An Asian moth, Calpe eustrigiata, prefers to feed on blood and uses its proboscis to pierce the skin of animals. The few species with chewing mouthparts eat pollen. Those adults without mouthparts must rely on the food they ate as caterpillars for energy.
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