Editor’s Note: This article is written by Mirijam Rosenast from Zurich/Switzerland. She’s not only a power mom, she is also a freak for all the weird, geek, and unusual stuff (kidding). You can find more information at her website and twitter.
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24 Wonderful Facts About Butterflies
We all know them but we all don’t know them. Butterflies. Honestly what do you know apart from knowing that they are pretty to look at? Yeah, I came up with nothing too… Or worse, with things that are not even correct. So I did a little research and wrote down the 24 most amazing and astonishing facts that I found about butterflies. Most surprised I was by the fact that it is not the butterflies that make silk cocoons but the moths. And I was also cobsmacked that butterflies can taste with their feet. Isn’t that incredible?
The fabulous pictures in this post are from the very talented ‘amateur’ photographer Caroline. She is a dear friend and has a great with amazing nature pictures. Go check her pics out and show her some photo love!
And now on to the wondrous butterfly facts:
- Butterflies – and moths – belong to the order Leptidoptera. This is derived from the Greek term for ‘scale-wing’.
- There are approximately 28,000 different types of butterfly species worldwide, most of which can be found in the tropics.
- The name ‘Butterfly’ was first coined to describe the Yellow Brimstone Butterfly, a variety commonly seen across Europe. It was actually known as ‘Butter-colored Fly’ and that later became ‘Butterfly’.
- Butterflies taste food by standing on it. This is because their taste sensors are found in their feet.
- Butterflies range in size from a tiny 1/8 inch to a huge almost 12 inches. The Queen Alexandra’s bird wing from the island of New Guinea is the largest butterfly and the smallest on record is the Western Pygmy blue Butterfly.
- Butterflies and insects have their skeletons on the outside of their bodies, called the exoskeleton. This protects the insect and keeps water inside their bodies so they don’t dry out. This means butterflies are related to crabs and lobsters! Because those sea creatures, also have skeletons on the outside of their bodies. They’re arthropods: insects, crustaceans, millipedes, centipedes and arachnids.
- The top butterfly flight speed is 12 miles per hour.
- Some Butterflies like the Monarch are toxic and after a bird has eaten it once it is definitely a reminder NOT to eat another one, for the milkweed that the Monarch eats as a caterpillar has a toxic effect when the butterfly is ingested.
- Butterflies can see red, green, and yellow.
- Female butterflies usually are bigger and live longer than male butterflies.
- Butterflies can’t hear, but they can feel vibration which works best when hiding from predators.
- Some species of butterflies, like the Red Admiral, actually prefer feeding on rotting fruit and animal dung!
- The wings of Butterflies are actually transparent. The vivid colors are due to overlapping bright scales. Have you heard the ‘fact’ that you will kill a butterfly if you touch its wings? That is fiction, you will not hurt a butterfly if you touch it, although you might rub off some of the colorful scales of its wings. Of course they are very delicate creatures and should not be touched.
- Butterflies weigh as little as two rose petals.
- Butterflies are the second largest group of pollinators…..next to bees.
- Some butterfly communicate with each other using sound, such as making noises with their wings, but most female butterflies release pheromones (like a perfume) into the air. The male butterflies of many species can detect the pheromones from as far away as 2 kilometers.
- Butterflies smell with their antennae.
- Contrary to popular belief, most butterflies do not spin cocoons. Most butterflies form a chrysalis instead, which is a hard protective shield. It is mostly moths which spin cocoons.
- Butterflies breathe through a complicated structure of tubes (called tracheae and tracheoles) and air sacs. Oxygen is pulled into the body through openings in their abdomens called spiracles.
- Overwintering species of larvae avoid freezing by producing glycerol. A kind of antifreeze.
- Some butterflies never eat as adults because they don’t have mouths. They live on the energy they stored as caterpillars.
- Antarctica is the only continent on which no Lepidoptera have been found.
- Most butterflies have pretty patterns on their wings. These designs are intended for camouflage purposes, so the predators, like birds, either can’t make out the Butterflies in the trees or bushes or are scared off into thinking them to be some other larger creature.
- A butterfly has compound eyes: each eye is made up of about 6,000 tiny parts called lenses, which let in light.
Conclusion: Maybe after reading this post we all look at butterflies with more knowledge. But nature is a mistery and we will never solve the whole puzzle. This could mean we should just sit back more and enjoy the incredible colours of the butterflies instead of seeking to know it all. :-)