Information On Butterflies



planet butterfly

Butterfly: Order Lepidoptera

With 140,000 species, the butterflies and moths are second only to the beetles in numbers.

Butterflies and moths vary in size more than any other insect group.

Expert lepidopterists have trouble describing the differences between butterflies and moths. Two rules of thumb are, butterflies fly by day, while moths fly at night, and moths have thicker, hairier bodies.


Like many insects, butterflies undergo complete metamorphosis. Few insects can match the astonishing transformation of the final stages in the metamorphosis of the lepidoptera, when the caterpillar or larvae first becomes a pupa and then emerges as an adult: winged, sexually mature, equipped with highly sophisticated organs of taste, smell and sometimes hearing to find food and seek out its mate.

Symbiosis, a natural arrangement in which two dissimilar organisms live together for mutual benefit, is no where more vividly displayed than in the relationship between butterflies and flowers. A butterfly burrows into a blossom to get at its nectar and at the same time pollinates the bloom with pollen from the last flower that it visited. Another symbiotic relationship happens between the imperial blue butterfly of Australia and an unimpressive-looking black ant of the genus Iridomyrmex. The butterfly lay eggs in the branches of a wattle tree. When the catapillars appear, they are immediately taken into custody by the ants that guard them from parasites and predators. In return for protection the ants "milk" the caterpillars for a fluid that they secrete. When the larvae enter the pupal stage and no longer produce this substance, they ants continue to guard them. When themature butterflies emerge from their chrysalids, the ants attack them believing that they are menacing the pupae.


Every autumn the monarch butterflies of North America take off on an annual southward hegira that would put many migratory birds to shame. The millions of frail-looking creatures come from as far away as southern Canada and fly as many as 2,000 miles.

The exotic and colorful markings on butterflies serve very definite purposes. Some marking may be bluffs, serving to scare off enemies. Some markings may be to draw a predator's eye away from vital organs in the body to less vulnerable wings. Some serve as camouflage in the flowery environment of their owners.



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