Beautiful masters of disguise
Butterflies are insects in the same order as moths. They have a four-stage life cycle which includes egg, larvae or caterpillar stage, pupa or chrysalis stage and adult. Some butterflies in the tropics can have many offspring per year, while in colder climates, they might just have one set of offspring cycle per year.
While adult butterfly wings are beautiful, they often serve a greater purpose besides being pretty. Butterflies are polymorphic, which means they can camouflage themselves, mimic larger prey animals or even use bright colors to warn of danger to their predators.
These wings are especially important since butterflies can range in size from the very tiny (just 1/8 of an inch) to almost 12 inches, meaning they can make a tasty snack for a wide variety of animals. And, while we often see them flutter softly from flower to flower, they can be quite quick, flying up to 12 miles an hour.
Butterflies have exoskeletons, meaning they have a hard outer shell that protects them. They also must regulate their body temperature to above 86 degrees or they can’t fly. So, while they have great defenses in place, they can be very delicate and sensitive to their environment. It’s why many butterflies, like Monarch butterflies, will travel thousands of miles to warmer climates throughout their lifespans.
There are about 24,000 species of butterflies and many of them are important to the spread and regrowth of plants. If you’d like to see more butterflies in your backyard, certain plants will attract certain types. You’ll want two types of plants: nectar plants and host plants. Nectar plants will feed the butterflies, while host plants are where they will lay their eggs and caterpillars will feed.
- Butterflies can see red, green and yellow.
- Antarctica is the only continent butterflies have not been found.
- Butterfly wings don’t have feathers: the color comes from tiny scales.
- Butterflies breathe through their abdomen, taste with their feet, and smell with their antennae.
- Many butterflies have motion stability sensors in their antennae.
- Caterpillars usually have sixteen legs.
- A butterfly’s heart runs the length of the top side of its body.
- Some butterflies (like Monarchs) are poisonous because they eat poisonous plants as caterpillars.