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Everything you need to know about Butterflies

Updated on July 23, 2012

Beautiful and graceful, varied and enchanting, small but approachable, butterflies lead you to the sunny side of life.  And everyone deserves a little sunshine.  ~Jeffrey Glassberg

The name Butterfly derived from “Butter-colored Fly”, a variety commonly seen across Europe.



  • There are about 28 000 species of butterflies throughout the world.
  • More than 750 species of butterflies live in the United States and Canada alone.
  • South Africa has a total of 671 species of butterflies and is home the smallest butterfly in the world. Having a wingspan of only ½", it is know as the Dwarf Blue Butterfly.
  • The largest butterfly in the world is the Queen Alexandra's Birdwing, with a wingspan up to 1 foot (30 cm). This tropical butterfly is from the rainforest in northern Papua New Guinea.

Dwarf Blue Butterfly
Dwarf Blue Butterfly


They seemed to come suddenly upon happiness as if they had surprised a butterfly in the winter woods. ~Edith Wharton

  • A butterfly is cold blooded and therefor it relies on the sun to raise its body temperature so it can move. Butterflies can’t fly if their body temperature is below 86 °F (30 °C) and that is why they re-appear in springtime when temperatures reach 60 °F (15.5 °C)


  • Butterflies have six legs and feet.
  • On average a butterfly weigh as little as two rose petals.
  • Adult butterflies don’t grow in size as they get older.


The fluttering of a butterfly's wings can effect climate changes on the other side of the planet.  ~Paul Erlich

  • The strong muscles in the thorax forces a butterfly’s wings up and down on a fulcrum basis.
  • The wings go in a slanted figure 8 motion that helps them to propel forward through the air. (similar to an airplane)
  • The veins in a butterfly’s wings support the wings in the same manner as the supporting bars of a kite.
  • Most butterflies have pretty and intricate patterns on their wings, designed for camouflage purposes.


Love is like a butterfly:  It goes where it pleases and it pleases wherever it goes.  ~Author Unknown

  • Most butterflies fly at 5 to 12 miles per hour (8 to 20 km per hour)
  • The fastest butterfly is the skipper Euschemon ssp, which can fly at 37 miles per hour (60 km per hour)
  • Some species can cover very long distances, especially when migrating, and fly more than 2000 miles (about 3200 km)
  • Butterflies generally only fly during the day.
  • On cloudy days or by night, the adult butterfly rest by hanging upside down from leaves or twigs.


"Just living is not enough," said the butterfly, "one must have sunshine, freedom and a little flower."  ~Hans Christian Anderson

  • Butterflies like sunny areas that are sheltered from the wind.
  • They are unlikely to fly on cool, overcast days but they can fly in light rain.
  • When resting, the butterfly holds its wings together above its back.


  • The butterfly’s wings are very delicate and can easily get damaged.
  • The wings are transparent, but covered with tiny scales, each in a single color.
  • The butterfly’s wing have 125 000 scales per square inch (compared to a human head with 100 hair per square inch)
  • The vivid colors are due to overlapping bright scales on the wings.
  • The bright colors on top of the wings are produced by pigments to attract mates or warn predators.
  • The bottom of the wings may be drab for camouflage purposes.


The butterfly counts not months but moments, and has time enough.  ~Rabindranath Tagore

  • Butterflies generally have a very brief life span.
  • Most butterflies live 20 to 40 days, some species live only for a few hours, other for 3 or 4 days and some species for about 10 months.
  • A few species found in the Tropics can live up to a year.


  • The female butterfly is usually bigger than the male and lives longer as well.
  • Females give off a scent that the male butterfly can smell.
  • Male and female butterflies fly in circles around each to find a mate.
  • The patterns on their wings are very useful in courtship rituals.


  • In general butterflies are territorial and will fight to chase others out of their territory.
  • Some species (those who live longer) are migratory and will fly thousands of miles in the winter to places with a warmer climate.
  • Butterflies can be found anywhere in the world where it is not too hot or too cold for them to survive.


  • Butterflies communicate through chemical cues. The adult male butterfly produce chemicals called pheromones to seduce the female butterfly.
  • They also use color, sound and physical actions. Color patterns are used to signal their sex or species to each other. A few butterflies can make a clicking sound to protect their space. Physical actions such as aggressiveness in flight or posture shows courtship or is used to protects an important flower.


Bees sip honey from flowers and hum their thanks when they leave. The gaudy butterfly is sure that the flowers owe thanks to him. ~Rabindranath Tagore, Stray Birds

  • Adult butterflies do not eat, they only drink.
  • They use their feet to taste because their feet have taste receptors.
  • When their feet come in contact with a sweet liquid, its feeding tube, a tube-like tongue called proboscises, uncoils.
  • They use their tongues to sip liquids from flowers, juice from rotten fruit and may sometimes drink sweat and liquid animal waste.
  • Most butterflies prefer flowers that are pink, red, purple, or yellow and that are open all day.


  • They have large, compound eyes and can see in all directions without moving their heads.
  • They are nearsighted and do not see colors such as red, green and yellow.
  • Butterflies can see ultraviolet light (invisible to humans) which makes the markings on flowers very vivid to them and guides them to the nectar tubes. 
  • Some butterflies have ultraviolet reflectors or markings on their own wings which are visible only to other butterflies.


  • Butterflies have a very well-developed sense of smell.
  • They use sense receptors located in their antennae and feet to smell and find food.


  • Butterflies are not able to hear, but they feel vibrations. This also helps them to hide from their predators.
  • They sense changes in sound vibrations through their wings.


  • Butterflies are pollinators that offer a valuable contribution to the continuation of genetic diversity,
  • Pollen attach to the legs of the butterfly and is carried from plant to plant, helping with the fertilization and propagation of new seeds and plants.
  • There are certain plants that are totally dependent on butterflies for pollination.


The caterpillar does all the work but the butterfly gets all the publicity.  ~Attributed to George Carlin

  • All butterflies metamorphose from eggs to caterpillars and then chrysalis for the pupa phase.
  • Between emerging from the egg and entering the pupa stage, a caterpillar increases to over 27 000 times its original size.
  • The entire process takes from 5 to 10 weeks.

What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the master calls a butterfly.  ~Richard Bach


  • Butterflies lay their eggs in spring on the underside of specific plants or some others lay them in mid-flight.
  • Eggs hatch 3 - 6 days after they are laid.
  • The caterpillar pupate after 3 - 4 weeks and it takes another 9 - 14 days to emerge as an adult.


  • Although birds are probably the main predators, adult butterflies in the tropics also have to contend with mantises, assassin bugs, crickets, spiders, wasps, dragonflies, robber flies and various reptiles and amphibians.
  • Hornets and wasps are major predators of butterflies in mid-late summer.


  • Some butterfly species are becoming quite rare as their natural habitats are shrinking.
  • Conservation of natural habitats and reduction in the use of pesticides, herbicides and other chemicals is required for the proliferation of butterflies.


  • This is an enclosed butterfly habitat where hundreds of different butterfly species will live and breed in their natural, controlled environment.
  • Most butterfly farms, gardens or houses are open to the public with guided tours.
  • Some farms, gardens or houses will charge a small fee or ask for a donation to help with its butterfly conservation efforts. Please support them!

The Niagara Parks Butterfly Conservatory

The Niagara Parks Butterfly Conservatory is home to over 2000 colourful, free-flying tropical butterflies in a rainforest setting. This magical attraction features over 2,000 colourful tropical butterflies floating freely among lush, exotic blossoms and greenery. Paths wind through the rainforest setting, past a pond and waterfall and the Emergence window, where butterflies leave their pupae and prepare to take their first flight! Admission (2011) is $12.25 for adults, $7.95 for children 6 - 12 years and children under 5 are free. They are open everyday, except for December 25.

Butterfly Kisses - The Song


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    • profile image


      5 years ago

      butterflys turne into catapilas

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I LOVE

    • Laura du Toit profile image

      Laura du Toit 

      7 years ago from South Africa

      What a beautiful hub - a real tribute to the butterflies in the world!


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