What are butterflies?

Butterflies are Arthropods which means that they are cephalized, have an open circulatory system, have an exoskeleton made of chitin, jointed appendages and they molt. They are also found all over the world. They can live in all types of environments including hot and cold weather, dry and moist climates and even high in the mountains, although most are found in tropical areas such as rain forests.

A lot of butterflies also migrate to avoid weather conditions that are not as ideal such as cold weather. Most will migrate pretty short distances but some butterflies such as monarchs can migrate thousands of miles.

Butterflies have four scale covered wings that are attached to the thorax.  Melanins in their wings give them a black and brown color while uric acid derivatives and flavones give them a yellow color. Most of the blues, greens, reds that you see are created by structural coloration produced by the micro-structures of the scales and hairs. Below is a picture of the structure of a butterflies wings.

File:Butterfly wing terms small.png

“Butterfly wing terms” By L. Shyamal Under  Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported


Butterflies have four different stages in their life-cycle. These stages are egg, larva, pupa and adult. Butterflies start their life as an egg which is laid on a leaf. Each species of butterfly has its own set of plants that it will lay its eggs on. Some species of butterfly are restricted to just one species of plant, but others are able to use a range of plant species. The different plants are usually part of a common family. The eggs are protected by a hard outer coating which acts like a shell. This is called chorion.

“Eggs of black-veined white (Aporia crataegi) on apple leaf” By Волков Владислав Петрович Under CC BY-SA 3.0

The larva  stage happens when the caterpillar hatches from its egg and eats leaves or flowers almost constantly. The caterpillar can molts many times as it grows and it will increase drastically in size before the next stage of its life.

caterpillar, insect, butterfly, larva, invertebrate, worm

“Caterpillar” Under PIXNIO public domain (CC0

When the larva is fully grown, it will stop feeding and begin to search for a good place to pupate. This is usually on the other side of a leaf or some sort of concealed spot. When it finds a suitable place, it will start to spin silk to attach its body to the chosen surface and will molt for the final time.Some caterpillars will spin a cocoon to protect the pupa but most will stay as a naked pupa. A naked pupa is also known as chrysalis and usually hangs head down.

Image result for butterfly pupa

“Chrysalis(Pupa) of a Common Crow Butterfly” By Pon Malar Under  Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported

Finally, the butterfly will emerge as an adult. Its main concern at this point is trying to mate. An adult butterfly can live anywhere from a week to a year depending on the species.

Image result for lifecycle of a butterfly

By Courtney Celley, Tina Shaw and Joanna Gilkeson Under U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Why are they important?

Butterflies are indicators of a healthy environment and healthy ecosystems. Areas that have many butterflies typically have many other invertebrates present. Together they are able to provide a wide range of environmental benefits, some of which include pollination and natural pest control. They also play an important role in the food chain since they are prey for birds, bats and other insectivorous animals.

Butterflies are also important because they are widely used by ecologists as model organisms to study the impact of habitat loss and fragmentation, and climate change. They are also sometimes used as model organisms to study pest control, embryology, mimicry, evolution, genetics and population dynamics. They have provided lots of unique data for all of these different studies and have made a significant impact.

Difference between Butterflies and Moths

Butterflies and moths are very closely related but there are a few significant differences between them. One of the best ways to tell a butterfly apart from a moth is to look at its antennae. A butterfly has club-shaped antennae with a long shaft and a bulb at the end. A moth has “feathery” or “saw edged” antennae. Another huge difference is that butterflies will fold their wings vertically up over their backs while moths usually hold their wings in a tent-like fashion that hides the abdomen. Also a butterflies wings are usually larger and have more colorful patterns on their wings than moths.

Along with the antennae and the wings being different, butterflies and moths also are slightly different in their anatomy. Moths have frenulum which is a wing-coupling device while butterflies do not. Also the behavior between the two is different. Butterflies are most commonly seen in the daytime but moths usually fly around at night.

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“Moth” By Fir0002  Under CC BY-SA 3.0

5 of my favorite Butterflies!

Monarch Butterfly

File:Monarch In May.jpg

“Monarch in May” By Kenneth Dwain Harrelson Under  Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported2.5 Generic2.0 Generic and 1.0 Generic

Peacock Butterfly

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“Peacock Butterfly (Aglais io)” By Charlesjsharp Under CC BY-SA 3.0

88 Butterfly

Image result for 88 butterfly

“Eighty-Eight Butterfly” By Charlesjsharp Under  Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported

Glasswing Butterfly

Image result for glasswing butterfly

“Glasswing Butterfly” By Scott Wylie Under  Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic

Giant Owl Butterlfy

Image result for giant owl butterfly

“Giant Owl Butterfly” By Steffen Flor Under  Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported

2 thoughts on “Butterflies!

  1. I really enjoyed reading this post! I had no idea that butterflies played such an important role in ecosystems. The fact that they provide benefits like pollination for plants and pest control is really interesting. I like that you provided a lot of images in this post to help explain your points. This is a really cool post, keep up the good work!


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