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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.
Lepidoptera is derived from the Latin lepido= scale + ptera = wing. 

    How many different kinds of moths and butterflies are there in the world?
     There are about 20,000 species of butterflies and more than 200,000 species of moths. 

What is the difference between butterflies and moths?

     Butterflies are mostly brightly colored day-flying insects with long knobbed antennae and most moths fly at night
     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.   
 Moths generally fold their wings down and butterflies close them over their backs.
     However there are execptions 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?
   A 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 army'.
   Butterfly Legends
   Native Americans have a wonderful story about the butterfly.
   Click here to read..
   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 butterfly's wings.
   How can you tell male or female butterflies apart?
 The 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 reproductive area.
  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?
  Butterflies have strong muscles in their thorax which force their wings up and down on a fulcrum basis.
  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?
Butterflies go through complete metamorphosis. They pass through 4 distinct stages which are:

1. Egg

2. Caterpillar (larva)

3. Pupa (chrysalis)

4. Adult

 2~4 days,

 2~3 weeks,

 1~ 4 weeks

 2~4 weeks

   How long do butterflies live? How
   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. 
   They get under leaves, logs, overhangs of houses, cracks or crevices in rocks or trees, etc...
  How to mend a butterflies broken wing.
   Click here for details
  What is the largest and the smallest butterfly?
Smallest: Western Pygmy Blue Butterfly  Click on link for more info.
Largest: Queen Alexandra's Birdwing Butterfly

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