All About Butterflies

Butterflies are insects. They are known as Lepidopteras, which means scaled wings.There are more than 250,000 species of Lepidopteras around the world. There are more moth species than there are butterfly, including 240,000 moth species and 20,000 butterfly species. About 725 species of butterflies are in the United States and Canada.


Life Cycle

Butterflies start out as eggs. When the eggs hatch a caterpillar appears. The caterpillars first meal is its own egg shell. Then, the caterpillar will eat the host plant. It will shed its skin several times and then find a sheltered spot to suspend itself by silk threads. The caterpillar will shed one last time to reveal skin that will harden to form the chrysalis. It can take days, months or even years, depending on the species, for the adult butterfly to emerge. An adult butterfly is about 20 to 40 days. Some species may only live a few days while others can live up to six months. The video on the right is from National Geographic and shows the life cycle of the butterfly.


Body

They have hard exoskeletons, three pairs of jointed legs, antennae, compound eyes and only three main body parts: head, thorax (point of attachments for wings) and abdomen.


Diet
Narrow-banded Owlet Fruit

Butterflies eat nectar from flowers, juice from rotting fruit and water from puddles.


Range

Butterflies are found worldwide except Antartica. Many butterflies migrate to avoid changing tempratures. Many butterflies do not migrate far, but monarchs and a few other species migrate throusands of miles.


Defense
They are food

As small, thin and fragile as butterflies may seem, many butterflies have developed ways of defending themselves against predators. Some butterflies have cryptic coloration, camoflauge, so that they can blend into their surroundings, such as leaves and tree trunks. Another method is chemical defense. Meaning some butterflies have developed toxic chemicals in its body. Butterflies with chemical defenses are usually brightly colored, and predators have associated the colors with the chemicals.