A Butterfly (of the Lepidoptera order) is a type of moth that differentiates from the rest because it has longer, smoother antennae and a larger, fuzzier body. Butterflies also are usually more colorful and fly during the day, while moths fly at night. The most interesting thing about butterflies — and moths for that matter — is the stages in which they develop from a caterpillar to a butterfly through metamorphosis.
An adult female lays her eggs on a specific plant that they know will serve as a source of food for the baby caterpillar when it hatches. When it does hatch, it comes out as a tiny caterpillar and eats its way into maturity for a 2 to 4 week period. This is when most of the insect’s growing occurs, allowing for the caterpillar to shed each time it grows out of its skin. When the last shedding occurs, a hard casing forms around it, called a chrysalis. At this point, metamorphosis occurs, and when the shell breaks, an adult butterfly appears that can reproduce, find its own food and migrate if needed. However, most adult butterflies live for only 2 weeks to 2 months. The longest living ones live for 9 to 12 months so that they can migrate.
The fastest butterflies can fly up to 37 miles per hour, but most can only fly 5 to 12 miles per hour. Some types can fly as much as 10,000 feet and others can migrate up to 3,000 miles.
Fun Butterfly Facts
- Butterflies can see color in the ultraviolet range, revealing patterns on flowers to them that humans can’t see.
- Butterfly wings are actually clear. Their colors and patterns are made by the reflection of the scales that cover them.
- Butterflies have taste sensors on their feet, allowing them to stand on a leaf and see if their baby caterpillars can eat it.
- There are about 165,000 known species of this kind.
San Diego Zoo
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