Female Butterflies Use Their Wings to Tell Males “Not Available”

Female small copper butterflies have evolved a simple behavior to tell males the equivalent of “stay off.”

Japanese scientist Jun-Ya Ide from the Kurume Institute of Technology in Fukuoka noticed that the female butterflies kept closing their wings when other butterflies flew near them. Dr. Ide says that their wing closing is a way of, in effect, avoiding sexual harassment, as he tells the BBC:

“I also found that she closed the wings at a lower rate when other butterfly species flew nearby,” said Dr Ide. And he set about trying to find out why this might be.

“Persistent mating attempts” from males can harm the delicate females, so Dr Ide thought the females might close their wings as an harassment avoidance strategy.

“He used a model of a male copper butterfly to trigger a reaction in the females.

“When I brought the model close to a mated female, she often closed the wings,” he told BBC Nature.

But, as Dr. Ide observed, virgin females leave their wings open, a signal that they are so to speak “available.”

The female butterflies have evolved a way, it seems, to protect themselves from male butterflies with just a fold of their wings.

Dr. Ide’s research is published in the journal Ethology. Below is a video of a small copper butterfly sucking nectar from a dandelion.


Photo by Deanster1983.

Love This? Never Miss Another Story.


Barbara Brown
Barbara Brown4 years ago

Guess the "Honey, I have a headache" just isn't going to cut it anymore. hahaha Going to start flapping my arms and show my husband just how delicate I can be!

KrassiAWAY B.
Krasimira B.4 years ago

Beautiful! Noted with interest.

Fred H.
Fred H.4 years ago

Amanda M complains: I wanted to find some kind of ring at the jewelry store that said "I've taken myself off the market, so don't even think about hitting on me!" Unfortunately, there's no such ring on the market.

Yes, there is, Amanda. It's called a wedding ring. You don't have to be married to wear one.

yaremis l.
Sarah M.4 years ago


Maria S.
Maria S.4 years ago

Interesting article. Thanks for posting.

Patti Tray
Patti T.4 years ago

Too bad it couldn't be that simple with Humans!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Adrianne P.
A P.4 years ago


Shirley E.
Shirley E.4 years ago

Some human butterflies could do well to learn this technique - it could save a few unwanted pregnancies.

Sue Matheson
Sue Matheson4 years ago

thanks for the information. very interesting.

tracey p.
tracey p.4 years ago

Very interesting article. It's interesting to see how other species deal with their sexual issues. Thanks.