Different butterfly species occupy slightly different niches, but most are forest- or field-dwelling, flying, nectar-feeding insects. Butterflies have long, extensible tongues that they insert into flowers to suck out the nectar. During feeding, butterflies are often covered in pollen, making them effective agents of pollination for plants. Butterflies are eaten by a variety of predators, including birds and reptiles.
While adult butterflies fly and primarily consume nectar, their larvae, or caterpillars, are terrestrial herbivores. Caterpillars are equipped with large, powerful jaws to cut and chew leaves. Thus, caterpillars occupy a different niche than butterflies do. The young and adult of the same species belonging to different niches is a common theme throughout the natural world. Many butterfly species deposit copious amounts of eggs that may hatch into caterpillars and cause the widespread destruction of local plant species. This contrasts with the harmless activities of adult butterflies, which help perpetuate the survival of many plant species through their pollination.
Most butterflies are diurnal. However, it is not entirely accurate to indicate that all butterflies are only active during the day while all moths are only active at night. There is great overlap between the niches of butterflies and moths, and most species center their activities on a specific species of plant.