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Beautiful Butterfly Pictures and Fun Facts
Life Cycle of a Monarch
The Stages of a Butterflies Life
Butterflies have four stages of life:
- The egg stage: Most butterfly eggs are laid on leaves. The egg incubating stage lasts a few weeks in the majority of butterfly species. Butterfly eggs found in warmer climates and laid close to the winter season may overwinter and hatch in the spring. Butterflies lay between 100 to 4,000 eggs depending on the species
- The larval stage: This stage is also known as the caterpillar stage. The caterpillar will spend most of its time eating in preparation for its pupal stage. The wings of the adult butterfly start to develop inside the caterpillar during this stage.
- The pupal stage: At the start of this stage, the caterpillar hunts for suitable place to attach itself and form an encasing chrysalis. Once attached, it goes through a rapid change, transforming itself into the adult butterfly.
- The adult stage: The adult butterfly emerges fully formed from the chrysalis which encased it. The butterfly will then need up to three hours to dry and fill its wings with blood. After this time, it will be able to fly.
Interesting Facts About Butterfly Wings
The adult butterfly has four wings which are formed by millions of tiny scales. These scales also give the wings their color. The blacks and browns are created by melanin, but the other colors are formed by light refraction off the scales.
It is not true that you will kill a butterfly by touching its wings. The "dust" you see on your fingers are just a few of the millions of scales.
Scientists have discovered that if a wing is surgically cut off during the pupal stage, the remaining three wings will greatly increase in size.
Caterpillars and Ants
Some species of caterpillars will form a symbiotic relationship with ants. In exchange for the ant's protection, the caterpillar will secrete "honeydew" which the ants will feed off.
Some caterpillars have strange markings on their heads. This type of caterpillar can inflate its head, making these markings appear as giant eyes and scaring off predators.
Other caterpillars can secrete noxious smelling and tasting substances, repelling predators.
Butterflies belong to the lepidoptera order which also includes moths.
The butterfly family includes the true butterflies, skippers, and moth-butterflies. All other members of the lepidoptera order are recognized as "true" moths.
How Long Does a Butterfly Live?
Once reaching the adult stage, most butterflies only live two to three weeks. Only a few species can live as long as a year.
A butterfly sips water and nectar by uncurling its long proboscis and sucking up the liquids.
If a butterfly lands on you, it may be because you are sweaty. Butterflies need salt, and can be found around natural salt licks.
Some species will feed on dead animals, rotten fruit, and animal feces in order to get their required nutrients.
What Colors can a Butterfly See?
A butterfly can see only the colors red, orange, and yellow. These colors are also the primary hues of flowers.
How Old Are Butterflies?
The oldest fossil found to date is estimated to be 40 -50 million years old.
Butterflies are second only to bees as pollinators. The pollen sticks to the butterflies body and is then transferred from flower to flower.
They cannot carry as much pollen as a bee, but they are still vital to plant reproduction and survival.
How do Butterflies Taste and Smell Flowers?
Butterflies have special receptors on their feet which the taste with. This helps them find a suitable plant on which they can lay their eggs.
Their antenna have receptors which not only can sense the wind direction, but which can also smell!
A butterfly does not have lungs. They "breathe" through spiracles, special holes in their abdomens.
How Many Different Species Are There?
There are more than 25,000 different species found throughout the world.
The most common type of butterfly is the Cabbage White. It can be found on all continents except Antarctica, and can be found on many tropical islands, including Hawaii.
What Are Some of the Rarest Butterflies?
The rarest species in the world is the Palos Verdes Blue, which is found only on the Palos Verdes Peninsula in Southern California. Thought to be extinct, it was rediscovered in 1994. Though humans are now actively breeding them, the Palos Verdes Blue's chances at long term survival is unknown.
The largest species is called the Birdwing Butterfly. Its wingspan can reach 11 inches across. Most of the birdwings can be found in Papua New Guinea.
The smallest species, the Western Pygmy Blue, has a tiny wingspan of only 1/4 of an inch across.
Many species of butterflies mass migrate. Migration is defined as a large purposeful movement in one direction. If a butterfly encounters a building or another obstacle while migrating, it will fly over it instead of around it.
The Monarchs have the longest known migration. Flying up to 100 miles in a day, they make the 3,000 mile trip from Mexico to as far north as Ontario, Canada every spring.
Unfortunately, the Monarch's population has greatly declined in the past 25 years.
What is the Difference Between a Moth and a Butterfly?
To identify a moth or butterfly, look at their antenna. A butterflies antenna are long with a ball at the end. A moth's antenna are shorter and feathered or fringed.
Butterflies generally hold their wings high over their backs, with the wings touching. Moths hold their wings low down around their abdomens.
A moth's forewings are attached to its hind wings. Butterfly wings do not have this attachment.
- Butterflies for beginners - Butterfly information
Butterflies and moth are very similar and belong to the same insect order: Lepidoptera. Learn more about these beautiful insects.
- The Butterfly Site - The #1 Butterflies Information Source
The Butterfly Site - #1 Source of Butterfly Information on the Internet! Everything about butterflies!
- The Xerces Society » Butterfly Conservation
- North American Butterfly Association Home Page
North American Butterfly Association home page