What Is A Butterfly?
Butterflies are insects. Just like all other insects, they have a three body part (the head, thorax, abdomen), six jointed legs, two knobbed antennae and compound eyes. They also have four large wings that are normally covered by colored scales. They also have a proboscis to suck or sip nectar from flowers. The proboscis is like a long tongue. Their bodies are covered by very tiny hairs. Moths have more hair on their bodies as compared to the butterflies. The hairs help them to feel the environment and get information when they are flying.
Butterflies and moths are classified under a group of insects called, Lepidoptera. This is from the Latin words “lepido” for scale and “ptera” for wings but take note that there are some moths that do not have wings. Notice the veins in the wings? These veins supply nourishment or blood to the wings. The wings will become ragged and the colors fade as they age. Butterflies cannot fly if their body temperature is less than 86 degrees. They need to warm themselves up in the sun in the cool weather. Butterflies come out only during the day but are most active in the mornings. They go out to warm themselves in the sun.
How Fast Can A Butterfly Fly?
It depends on the species. The fastest is about 30 miles per hour. Poisonous butterflies are much slower in flying. The slowest is about 5 miles per hour.
Butterflies are found all over the world. They are found in hot and cold countries, dry and wet climates. However, most species are found in the tropical climates and rainforests. Some species will migrate short and long distances to avoid certain weather conditions.
Some butterflies are attracted to a specific host plant. They have a preference on where they lay their eggs. Without the specific plant, the female might not want to lay its eggs and the survival of this species will be threatened. An example is the Monarch butterfly. It chooses to lay its egg only on the milkweed leaves.
Butterfly habitats must be protected to ensure the survival of their species. Those who want to attract butterflies into their gardens should first find out which species are found in your area. Then find out their host plant and grow them in your garden or provide them with food they like. Adult butterflies are also attracted to plants with red, yellow and purple flowers.
Most butterflies feed on nectar from flowers. They also like the sweet liquid from rotting fruits. Those that eat meat will prefer to drink the body fluids of its prey like the Harvester Butterfly.
Do butterflies have enemies?
Like all other creatures, the butterflies have their enemies. The enemies are the predators viewing them as their meal. A parasite will lay its egg into the body of the butterfly. An example would be the Trichograma wasp. This minute wasp will lay its egg inside those eggs of the female butterfly. So instead of a larva hatching, the trichograma wasp emerges and flies away. The other predators are other insects, spiders, praying mantis, lizards, snakes, frogs, birds, fish and even monkeys.
To protect itself from its enemy, the butterfly uses camouflage. It uses its colors to blend into its surroundings to avoid being seen clearly. Some non poisonous ones will also mimic or copy the colors of the poisonous butterflies to trick the predator into thinking that they are poisonous too. The Monarch butterfly is a poisonous one. The predator will become sick if it eats it It will not kill the predator though but just teach it a lesson. The Owl Butterfly has a wing pattern that looks like large eyes. These fake eyes attract the predator to the less vulnerable spot of the butterfly and enables it to escape.
In mating, the male butterfly will seize the female butterfly and hold her by the abdomen. They join end to end to mate. The male will inject his sperm into a cavity or sac in the female’s body until she is ready to lay her eggs. The eggs are fertilized as they pass through the sperm cavity on the way out.
(Picture taken from :http://www.flickr.com/people/jimpurcell/)
Find out more about the life cycle of a butterfly below :
Why are the population of butterflies declining?
The butterfly population is declining because of the reasons below:
- loss of habitat due to agriculture
- changes in weather, like an early spring
- use of herbicides
- the use of GMOs as in the case of the Monarch butterfly
Watch the video of the plight of the monarch butterfly below :