Facts About Butterflies

butterfly wings close up

There are thousands of interesting facts about butterflies. These delicate creatures seem to enthrall nearly everyone with their colorful beauty, their graceful flight, and their amazing abilities.

Facts about How Butterflies Develop

Some of the most mysterious facts about butterflies have to do with how they grow and develop. The metamorphosis from caterpillar to butterfly is done in the hidden confines of a chrysalis and seems to be a mysterious process to most people. Some facts about their growth and development are:

  • Many caterpillars eat 27,000 times their own body weight before they are ready to enter the chrysalis.
  • In the pupa stage the caterpillar's body is turned to a gel-like liquid and the cells are broken down and reorganized.
  • Once a caterpillar hatches from the egg it will increase its size 30,000 times before it is ready for the pupa stage.
  • Chrysalises of certain butterflies can produce small sounds to frighten predators away.
  • Butterfly wings are hollow. Once they come out of the chrysalis they will hang upside down while the wings fill with fluid. By doing this they use gravity to help their wings become stiff. This process can take several hours.

Fun Butterfly Facts

  • There are approximately 20,000 species of butterflies
  • Butterflies taste with their feet.
  • Most caterpillars have 12 eyes. They are a very simple structure and can only sense light and dark.
  • There are butterflies with thousands of eyes. All butterflies have compound eyes made up of about 60,000 lenses.
  • Butterflies can see color and they can even see ultraviolet light. Humans cannot see this type of light.
  • Butterflies have the senses of smell, taste, and touch.
  • Butterflies do not go to the bathroom. Caterpillars eat and defecate constantly but once they are transformed into butterflies they no longer eat and so have no need to go to the bathroom.
  • Pictures of butterflies can be seen on ancient Egyptian frescoes in Thebes. These frescoes are estimated to be over 3,000 years old.
  • Once in a while a butterfly will have too much to drink and will spray the excess from an opening at the top of its abdomen.
  • Butterflies do not sleep but the do become inactive on cloudy days and at night.
  • The colors of a butterfly come from minute scales that cover the surface of the wing.
  • The only continent where no butterflies can be found is Antarctica.
  • Butterflies are not necessarily peaceful. They will fight each other for the control of a sunny patch of ground.
  • The iridescent colors of the butterfly are caused not by pigmentation but by the light bending through the scales.

More Facts about Butterflies

  • The word butterfly comes from an old English word for butter churn, buttorfleoge.
  • The Mourning Cloak butterfly will play dead around predators.
  • Butterflies have to be warm to fly. If their body temperature drops below 86 degrees they have to wait until they warm back up.
  • The species of butterfly that lives the longest is The Brimstone butterfly which has a 10 month lifespan.
  • Butterflies hide in underbrush, leaves, and other places of shelter when it rains. Their wings can become torn from the wind and the rain if it is heavy.
  • Skippers may be the fastest flying butterfly with speeds of up to 30 miles per hour.
  • Monarch butterflies have been observed as high as 1,000 feet in the air.
  • The Monarch butterfly may migrate more than 2,000 miles.
  • Butterflies do not use lungs to breathe.
  • The largest butterfly is the Queen Alexandra's Birdwing. It lives on New Guinea and can have an 11 inch wingspan.
  • The Northern Pearly Eye butterfly flies at night.
  • Butterfly caterpillars are usually not the pests eating your prize roses and other garden flowers. These are usually moth larvae.

Butterflies Help Man

Butterflies are an important part of our world. They pollinate plants more than any other insect except bees. When the eco-system is out of balance butterflies begin to die out and so are good indicators of a healthy environment. Finally, butterflies are a favorite food of song birds, which many people like to attract to their gardens. These are only a few of the hundreds of facts about butterflies. These insects are so interesting that hundreds of books have been written about them, and they have been carefully studied by many scientists. Since the greatest threat to butterflies is loss of habitat knowing more about them is an important way to protect these amazing creatures.

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Facts About Butterflies