Monarch Chrysalis, photo by B. Preston
Butterflies and moths belong to the order Lepidoptera which is derived from the Greek words for “scale” and “wing” referring to the millions of tiny scales covering their wings giving them their extraordinary colors.
Approximately 165,000 species of Lepidoptera have been described, but only about 20, 000 of those species are butterflies.
Evidence suggests that butterflies appeared on the planet earth in the Cretaceous period, over 130 million years ago!
Most butterflies only live about two weeks.
When a butterfly first emerges from its chrysalis, its proboscis is split down the middle in two pieces. In order to feed, the newly emerged butterfly must uncoil and coil its proboscis over and over until the two pieces attach forming a straw-like tube.
Many butterflies have eye-like spots on the back of their wings for protection against predators. In the event of an attack, the predator is likely to direct the attack at the head, or what it thinks is the head. If the eye-spot on the wing is bitten off, the butterfly will likely escape unharmed!
Many butterflies are poisonous or distasteful to predators because their larvae feed on poisonous or distasteful plants. Several species of butterflies that are not poisonous or distasteful mimic the appearance of these butterflies in order to deter predators. For example the harmless Viceroy butterfly (Limenitis archippus) mimics the appearance of the poisonous Monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus), who’s caterpillar feeds on poisonous milkweed plants.
Every letter of the alphabet and the numbers one to ten can be found within the extraordinary patterns of butterfly wings from around the world. See the book: The Butterfly Alphabet by Kjell B. Sandved.