…according to humans…In chapter 18, Mo and Finchy meet Diana, a butterfly actor with bright orange wings outlined in burgundy.
Most butterflies are just as beautiful as Diana (but not nearly as talented). Many people enjoy watching them, mainly because they are such colorful and alluring, well, insects. But other than their beauty, what’s special about them? How do they live? What do they eat? What do they do?
Which Came First: The Butterfly or The Egg?
Butterflies are actually insects that go through four life, or developmental, stages:
- Stage 1 – The egg: Butterflies lay eggs.
- Stage 2 – Larva: The larva is also known as a caterpillar. A caterpillar hatches from a butterfly egg. At this stage, the insect is young and hasn’t yet changed into an adult or butterfly.
- Stage 3 – Pupa/chrysalis: When the caterpillar is full grown and stops eating, it becomes a pupa. It makes a protective shell called a chrysalis. Then the caterpillar’s old body dies and a new body starts forming inside the chrysalis.
- Stage 4 – Adult butterfly: It takes between five and 21 days for a butterfly to form inside the chrysalis.
How Long Do Butterflies Live?
Many butterflies only live two to four short weeks and focus their energies on eating and mating. Some of the smallest butterfly species, like those with blue-colored wings, may only survive a few days. But others can live as long as nine months, such as monarchs and mourning cloaks.
How Many Types or Species of Butterflies Exist?
Scientists estimate that there are between 15,000 and 20,000 different species. Here are some of their names and more information about them:
- Monarch Butterflies: Adult monarchs live in North America – from Canada all the way down to the Gulf of Mexico! They have two pairs of brilliant orange-red wings, featuring black veins and white spots along the edges.
- Swallowtail Butterflies: This species lives and can be found everywhere on the planet, except for Antarctica. There are more than 550 different types of swallowtails, which also have tails on their wings.
- Hairstreak Butterflies: This small and delicate species is found in South America and in tropical rainforests. They’re usually light gray or brown, some with a black and white line across both wings. Also, they frequently have one or more thin tails on their hindwings.
- Blue Morpho Butterflies: These are one of the largest butterfly species. They live in the rainforests of Mexico, Central America and South America. Here are some quick facts: their wingspan can be eight inches long; they have scales on the top of their wings; these scales have tiny ridges that reflect blue light. Although they aren’t colored blue, the tops of their wings look blue.
- Western Pygmy Blue Butterflies: This is the smallest butterfly in North America and the United States and it is often overlooked. They have copper-brownish wings with dull blue markings on the upper side. The underside of their wings boasts flecks of white as well as white on the edges.
- Glasswing Butterflies: This butterfly has transparent wings and lacks the vibrant colors of other species. The tissue between their veins looks like glass. But their clear wings give them an advantage: they’re much harder for predatory birds to track them in flight. Most live in Mexico, Panama, and Colombia, but can be found as far north as Florida.
- Mourning Cloaks Butterflies: These are also referred to as the “brush-footed” species because the front pair of their legs is small, hairy and “brushlike.” Its wings are dark brown and feature bright blue shimmering spots along the inner edge of a yellow or beige border. While they are the state butterfly of Montana, they are seen throughout most of the US and Canada.
How Do Butterflies Help the Planet?
Simply put, they perform a very important job. Here’s why humans can’t live without them:
They’re attracted to bright flowers and drink their nectar for food. They (and bees) also collect the plant’s pollen and carry it to other plants. This helps plants – like those that produce fruits, vegetables and flowers – create new plants and grow more fruits and vegetables for people to eat.
Functional Facts about Butterflies
- Butterflies use receptors on their feet to find and taste food. Really. Females land on different plants and drum the leaves with their feet until the plant releases its juices.
- Since adult butterflies can’t chew, they only drink liquids–usually nectar. Still, they need minerals and sometimes sip from mud puddles, which are rich in minerals and salts.
- They fly when the outside temperature is between 82 and 100 degrees. But, if the temperature drops, they can’t eat or fly.
- They can see the same colors as humans and also a range of ultraviolet colors that are invisible to humans. Their eyes are made of 6,000 lenses that can see ultraviolet light. These ultraviolet colors help them identify each other and appear on flowers so they know which ones to pollinate.
- Every year, monarchs travel more than 2400 miles. Females lay their eggs and then the new generation of monarchs travel back.
- Most butterflies fly at five to 12 miles per hour.
What Else Should You Know?
Since caterpillars are like the parents of butterflies, you may want to know more about these insects:
- Their bodies are very soft and covered with tiny hairs.
- They have six pairs of small eyes.
- They’re smart. To avoid being eaten by predators, they will play dead.
- They breathe through small holes called spiracles – just like butterflies.
- While some eat other insects, they also eat plants. If you have a vegetable garden, watch out! They can devour and destroy it.
- Since caterpillars have to eat a lot before they transform, some scientists nicknamed them “eating machines”.
- Many caterpillars are nocturnal. This means they are awake during the night.
- Caterpillars have almost 4,000 muscles in their bodies. The human body has more than 600 muscles.
Is there something you would like to share about butterflies? Maybe you have a picture of one, or have taken a colorful photograph of one? Email your information and/or butterfly photo to: email@example.com along with your first, name, age and state you live in and we’ll post it on Mo’s social media pages!