Frequently Asked Questions
What are butterflies and moths?
Butterflies and moths are a group of insects called Lepidoptera. Like all
insects, butterflies and moths have a head, thorax, abdomen, two antennae,
and six legs. Additionally, moths and butterflies have four wings that
are almost always covered by colored scales, and a coiled proboscis for
drinking liquids such as flower nectar.
How many different kinds of moths and butterflies are there in the world?
There are about 28,000 species of butterflies and of those
750 are found in the lower 48 states. more
than 170,000 species of moths and of those 11,000 are found in the US.
What is the difference between butterflies and moths?
Butterflies are mostly brightly
colored day-flying insects with long knobbed antennae and most moths fly
and have tapered or feathery antennae.
One difference that is useful is the
difference in the way in which they
hold their wings when resting.
generally fold their wings down and butterflies close them over their
However there are execeptions in both butterflies and moths.
What do butterflies feed on?Caterpillars feed mainly on plant parts while adult butterflies eat liquids to maintain their water balance and energy stores. They sip flower nectar and imbibe fluids from sap flowers on trees, rotting fruits, bird droppings, or animal dung. Adult butterflies can usually be found drinking fluids at wet sand or mud, especially along stream courses or the edges of dirt roads or trails.
What eats butterflies?
Butterflies have many enemies. Anything that preys on other insects will also eat butterflies and caterpillars. Ants, wasps, birds, preying mantises, walking sticks, etc., will eat them. Some caterpillars and butterflies eat toxic plants and they save the toxicity in their bodies, thus making them toxic too. They usually don't get eaten by predators. Some other species of butterflies camouflage themselves to look like toxic species so they don't get eaten either.
What is a group of butterflies called?
collective name for a group of butterflies is called a 'Kaleidoscope'.
However others have called it a 'Swarm' or 'Rabble'.
In addition, the collective name for a group of caterpillars is 'an
Americans have a wonderful story about the butterfly.
How do they communicate?
Butterflies communicate with each other by color, chemicals, sound and physical actions.
Color patterns are used to signal their sex or species to each other. Chemical pheromones are used by both sexes of some butterflies to attract the opposite sex or to signal species identity in courtship. A few butterflies make clicking sounds to protect their space. Physical actions such as aggressive flight or postures are used in courtship or to protect resources such as an important flower.
Why are butterflies so colorful?
Adult butterflies see a large spectrum of colors than
many other animals. They can see all the colors we see,
plus they see ultraviolet colors. There are ultraviolet colors in many
flowers from which the butterflies get their
food from. The common daisy looks white and yellow to us but it has
ultraviolet colors right outside the yellow
center. Color is important in many ways. It also functions as
camouflage, to absorb heat, aids in finding a
mate, serves as warning, and in many more ways.
Butterflies have scales?
When you touch the wing of a butterfly or moth, some
dust seems to rub off on your fingers. This dust is made
up of tiny scales . Butterfly wings are clear but covered with tiny
scales, take a close look at a butterfly wing to
see them. These scales serve several functions. They create the
beautiful color patterns we see, they help in
absorbing or reflecting sunlight. Since these scales fall off so easily
they help the butterflies when predators
try to have a snack. It is generally not a good idea to touch a
can you tell male or female butterflies apart?
females are usually larger, but an entomologist will look for an
ovipositer, which is an egg-laying device only
found in females. The males have a clasping device in their
How did the butterfly get its name?
There are a number of different ideas about this. One
story comes from Europe. During the spring, cows would
have their calves. The cows would produce milk that would be turned
into butter. Springtime is also when
butterflies start to come out. These flying bugs were named butterflies
because they would fly around while milk
was churned to butter.
Why do butterflies taste with their feet?
When a butterfly lands on a plant, it can instantly taste
whether it is the kind of plant it is looking for.
How do butterflies fly?
strong muscles in their thorax which force their wings up and down on a
They actually go in a slanted figure 8 motion that propels them forward
through the air in the same principle
as an airplane.
What is a butterflies life cycle?
through complete metamorphosis. They pass through 4 distinct stages which
How long do butterflies live?
Butterfly life span varies greatly. It averages from
about 2 to 14 days after they emerge from the chrysalis.
Maximum life span ranges from about 4 days up to 11 months. Females
generally live longer than males.
Where do butterflies go to sleep or when it's raining?
Butterflies hide under or in many places to get out of the rain or to
spend a quiet night.
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