Butterflies – flying flowers
Butterflies and moths are insects, and like all insects they have three pairs of legs. Their bodies are divided into three sections: head, thorax, and abdomen. Most butterflies are active during daylight, while moths are mostly nocturnal.
Butterflies live throughout the world, except in Antarctica.
Nectar from flowers is an important part of their diet. Some will eat mosses and ferns. Others like cones, fruits, and seeds, but some do not eat at all and live for only a short time!
Butterflies and moths change form completely over the course of their lives. This change is called metamorphosis. First, they hatch from an egg as a larva, or caterpillar. Caterpillars have no wings, and they often look like fat worms. Some kinds are hairy.
After a period of growth, the caterpillar changes into a form called a pupa. The pupa lies inactive for weeks or months while its adult features develop. Some species make a silk case called a cocoon to protect themselves. Finally, the butterfly or moth becomes a winged adult.
The females lay eggs on the specific food plant upon which the caterpillar must feed. They lay up to 600 eggs at a time.
Caterpillars spend most of their time eating. A very small number of butterfly species have caterpillars that are predators that feed on other insects.
The wings are a spectacular part of the butterfly, and are extremely large compared to its body.
Most butterfly species live and die within a narrow geographic range, because their brief life span allows little time for wandering. However, the monarch butterfly migrates thousands of miles from southern Canada and northern parts of the United States to Mexico and southern coastal California. Monarchs and some other butterflies migrate in massive numbers, forming clouds of color sometimes a mile wide and a mile long.
Queen Alexandra’s birdwing butterfly is the world’s largest butterfly. Females of the species have wingspans measuring more than 25 centimeters.
The form, symmetry and color of the butterfly inspire artists to capture the beauty of Nature on canvas.
A butterfly has an important role in the symbolism of female life. The transformation of pupa into butterfly is seen as analogous to the transformation of an immature girl into a beautiful woman.
– The ancient Greeks believed that butterflies were spirits of the dead.
– In many countries, the butterfly is a symbol of love, happiness and prosperity.
– The Japanese believe that to see a butterfly in your house is for luck, as it symbolizes all the best in life.
– A lepidopterist or aurelian is a person who specialises in the study of Lepidoptera.
– Attacus altas is the largest moth in the world. Their wingspans are more than 30 cm, and it is often mistaken for a bird.
– There are clinics in Stockholm where patients are being treated for stress in greenhouses with flowers and butterflies.
– Blue Dwarf is the smallest butterfly in the world. Its wingspan is only 1.4 cm.