There are lots of interesting facts about butterflies that you may, or not, already know. such as butterflies belong to the insect species. Test your butterfly knowledge against these other facts.
1. Butterfly wings are transparent. A butterfly's wings are covered by thousands of tiny scales, and these scales reflect light in different colors. But underneath all of those scales, a butterfly wing is actually formed by layers of chitin, the same protein that makes up an insect's exoskeleton. These layers are so thin you can see right through them. As the butterfly ages, scales fall off the wings, leaving spots of transparency where the chitin layer is exposed.
2. Butterflies taste with their feet. Adult butterflies can only feed on liquids, usually nectar. Their mouthparts are modified to enable them to drink, but they can't chew solids. A proboscis, which functions as a drinking straw, stays curled up under the butterfly's chin until it finds a source of nectar or other liquid nutrition. It then unfurls the long, tubular structure and sips up a meal. A few butterflies feed on sap, and some even resort to sipping from decaying carrion. No matter the meal, they suck it up a straw.
3. Butterflies must assemble their mouthparts as soon as they emerge from their chrysalis. A butterfly that can't drink nectar is doomed. One of its first jobs as an adult butterfly is to assemble its mouthparts. When a new adult emerges from the pupal case or chrysalis, its mouth is in two pieces. Using palpi located adjacent to the proboscis, the butterfly begins working the two parts together to form a single, tubular proboscis. You may see a newly emerged butterfly curling and uncurling the proboscis over and over, testing it out.
4. Butterflies live on an all-liquid diet. Adult butterflies can only feed on liquids, usually nectar. Their mouthparts are modified to enable them to drink, but they can't chew solids. A proboscis, which functions as a drinking straw, stays curled up under the butterfly's chin until it finds a source of nectar or other liquid nutrition. It then unfurls the long, tubular structure and sips up a meal. A few butterflies feed on sap, and some even resort to sipping from decaying carrion. No matter the meal, they suck it up a straw. This is one reason why planting flowers are so important!
5. Butterflies drink from puddles. A butterfly cannot live on sugar alone; it needs minerals, too. To supplement its diet of nectar, a butterfly will occasionally sip from mud puddles, which are rich in minerals and salts. This behavior, called puddling, occurs more often in male butterflies, which incorporate the minerals into their sperm. These nutrients are then transferred to the female during mating, and help improve the viability of her eggs.
6. Butterflies can't fly if they're cold. Butterflies need an ideal body temperature of about 85ºF to fly. Since they're cold-blooded animals, they can't regulate their own body temperatures. The surrounding air temperature has a big impact on their ability to function. If the air temperature falls below 55ºF, butterflies are rendered immobile, unable to flee from predators or feed.
7. A newly emerged butterfly cannot fly. Inside the chrysalis, a developing butterfly waits to emerge with its wings collapsed around its body. When it finally breaks free of the pupal case, it greets the world with tiny, shriveled wings. The butterfly must immediately pump body fluid through its wing veins to expand them. Once its wings reach full-size, the butterfly must rest for a few hours to allow its body to dry and harden before it can take its first flight.
8. Butterflies usually live only a few weeks. How sad is that!? Once it emerges from its chrysalis as an adult, a butterfly has only 2-4 short weeks to live, in most cases. During that time, it focuses all its energy on two tasks – eating and mating. Some of the smallest butterflies, the blues, may only survive a few days. Butterflies that overwinter as adults, like monarchs and mourning cloaks, can live as long as 9 months.
9. Butterflies are near-sighted but they can see and discriminate lots of colors. Within about 10-12 feet, butterfly eyesight is quite good. Anything beyond that distance gets a little blurry. Butterflies rely on their eyesight for vital tasks, like finding mates of the same species and finding flowers on which to feed. In addition to seeing some of the colors that people see, butterflies can see a range of ultraviolet colors invisible to the human eye. The butterflies themselves may have ultraviolet markings on their wings to help them identify one another and locate potential mates. Flowers, too, display ultraviolet markings that act as traffic signals to incoming pollinators like butterflies – "pollinate me!"
10. Butterflies employ all sorts of tricks to avoid being eaten. Butterflies rank pretty low on the food chain, with lots of hungry predators happy to make a meal of them. Some butterflies fold their wings to blend into the background, using camouflage to render themselves all but invisible to predators. Others try the opposite strategy, wearing vibrant colors and patterns that boldly announce their presence. Bright colored insects often pack a toxic punch if eaten, so predators learn to avoid them. Some butterflies aren't toxic at all, but pattern themselves after other species known for their toxicity. By mimicking their foul-tasting cousins, they repel predators.
Aren't butterflies amazing creatures? And even they are, technically-speaking, insects I promise you that I'll never eat them! Saturday is Panda Day so I hope you'll stop by tomorrow and learn a little bit about the cutest bears ever! (To my beary good friend Leonard...you'll always be the cutest.) Until we meet again, I wish you