Animals · Biology

11 Amazing facts about Butterflies.

Nature has created many beautiful masterpieces, but a butterfly is the most beautiful and colorful masterpiece. The vivid colors of butterfly wings are so life like that sometimes people call them “flying flowers”. Do you know, these colorful creatures actually belong to the insect family of the animal kingdom. Here are some amazing facts about butterflies that may surprise you.

1. How they got their Name?

The word butterfly was first used to describe a butter-colored insectthe Brimstone Butterfly (Gonepteryx rhamni). Butterfly eventually came to include all the species, and the brimstone butterfly acquired its present name which relates to the color of sulfur.

The original “butterfly” A male brimstone (Gonepteryx rhamni) in flight.

2. Where are they found?

You can find butterflies everywhere in the world, except Antarctica. Antarctica is the only continent, where no butterfly species are found. The Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui) is the most widespread butterfly species in the world. Vanessa cardui is found on every continent except Antarctica and South America.

The Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui) is the most widespread butterfly species in the world.

3. What do they eat?

Butterflies feed primarily on nectar from flowers. Besides nectar, they also get their nourishment by feeding on pollen, tree sap, rotting fruit, and dung. Mostly the diet of a butterfly consists of sugars (carbohydrates), but a butterfly cannot live on sugar alone, it needs minerals, too.

Thus, to supplement the diet, a butterfly will occasionally sip from mud puddles, wet sand or dirt, which are rich in minerals and salts. This behavior is called mud-puddling.

Monarch butterfly feeding on nectar on a flower.

4. How do they eat?

They suck nectar and other liquids through a long narrow tube in their mouth called a proboscis. The proboscis acts as a straw in order to drink the nectar present at the base of anthers. When not in use, this long tube coils up under the head.

Usually, butterflies don’t discriminate among flowers, but some butterflies visit only certain flowers and avoid others. This phenomenon is called flower constancy.

Also Read: 11 Amazing Facts about DNA You didn’t Know.

5. What makes them so Beautiful?

A butterfly’s wings are covered by millions of shingle-like overlapping scales which reflect light in different colors and give butterfly wings their beautiful color. These scales are pigmented with melanins that give them blacks and browns, as well as uric acid derivatives and flavones that give them yellows. 

The pattern of scales on butterfly’s wings.

But, various other variants of the blue, green, red and other iridescent colors are created by structural coloration produced by the micro-structures of the scales and hairs present on the surface of butterfly wings.

6. How fast can they fly?

Some butterflies can fly 50 km per hour or faster, whereas slow flying butterflies probably fly about 10 km per hour. Butterflies can only fly when their temperature is above 27°C (81°F); when it is below 27°C, they position themselves to expose the underside of the wings to the sunlight to warm themselves up.

The above activity is known as Basking. It is an activity which is more common in the cooler hours of the morning. Some species have evolved dark wingbases to help in gathering more heat and this is especially evident in alpine forms.

However, If their body temperature reaches 40°C (104°F), they orientate themselves with the folded wings edgewise to the sun.

Also Read: 11 Methods of Food Preservation used by Food Industry.

7. How long they live?

How long butterflies live depends on various factors such as their size, where they live, kind of species, climate etc. The most important factor is the size of the butterfly. For example, if the butterfly is of the smaller size it will probably not live as long as the larger one will live.

The longest life spans are associated with the migrating Monarchs, Mourning Cloaks, and some tropical Heliconians which can live for about 6 to 12 months. Whereas, the shortest lifespan for a butterfly species, which is just a few days, is of the copper butterfly and the small blue butterfly.

8. How big or small can they be?

The Queen Alexandra’s Birdwing (Ornithoptera alexandrae) is the largest butterfly in the world. The wingspan of females can reach up to 25 cm (9.8 inches). This species was named by Walter Rothschild, a famous British Zoologist in 1907. It was named so, in honor of Alexandra of Denmark, the Queen of Great England.

The Queen Alexandra’s Birdwing – the largest butterfly in the world.

The smallest butterfly is the dwarf blue butterfly (Oraidium barberae) found in South Africa and Zimbabwe. The wingspan is 10 to 15 mm for males and 12 to 18 mm for females.

9. How they defend themselves?

Papilio antimachus popularly known as the Giant African Swallowtail is toxic, enemies are afraid to go near them. The male butterfly in this species can be highly aggressive, and sometimes jostle and fight while defending a territory along a stretch of river.

Mourning Cloak (Nymphalis antiopa) butterflies sometimes collectively attack predators. When they are alone, they prefer to hide or fly away in the presence of a predator, but when they are in a group, they join together and make a counter attack.

Squinting bush brown butterflies can change their appearance depending on the season. The Indian Leaf Butterfly disguises itself as a decaying leaf on a stem to save itself from enemies.

Also Read: 11 Algae that are Used as Human Food.

10. Can they See?

Butterflies can see things 3 to 3.5 meters ahead. Beyond that distance their vision becomes blurry. Butterflies depend on their eyesight for tasks like finding flowers on which they can feed.

11. Some Weird Habits

The caterpillars of the Queen Alexandra’s Birdwing are totally reliant on a species of vine called Aristolochia schlechteri. They eat the leaves of the plant, which gives them a toxin that is poisonous for predators.

Sometimes, the salt in human sweat attracts butterflies, and thus they tend to land on people.

So, these were some facts about butterflies that we thought you would like, but butterflies are more mysterious then they sounded in all of the above facts. Thus, there are many more facts about butterflies that we have not included and some of them are yet to be discovered. So, that is all for now. Keep Reading, Keep Exploring and Keep Sharing your Knowledge. 🙂


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