Butterflies and bees are two of the world's greatest pollinators, but how much do you really know about the creatures that flutter through your garden? For those who want to be like a butterfly, and grow, evolve, and transform into more informed individuals, here are some fun facts about butterflies!
Fun Facts About Butterflies
Get ready for your butterfly knowledge to go through a grand transformation! Here are the top butterfly facts that are bound to bewilder you!
A Group of Butterflies Is Called a Flutter
The name for a group of butterflies depends on their phase and current activity. When in flight, groups of butterflies are called a flutter, a flight, or a kaleidoscopic! However, many species of these insects rest in groups. When this occurs, they are referred to as a roost. In contrast, a group of caterpillars is called an army.
Butterflies Taste With Their Feet
Did you know that butterflies don't have tongues? Many think that the proboscis is their tongue, but this is actually their mouth! The organ allows them to suck the nectar from flowers. Once they are done with their meal, it then curls up into a convenient spiral. In order to taste their food, these delicate creatures use their feet!
Butterflies Have Four Wings
Contrary to popular belief, those two beautiful wings are actually four. They have a pair of forewings and a pair of hind wings that move in a figure eight motion.
Butterflies Have Up to 17,000 Mini Eyes
Unlike humans, butterflies have compound eyes. This means that they have one big eye that comprises up to 17,000 mini eyes. More impressively, each of these eyes can see up to nine colors, whereas humans can only see three. This allows them to detect ultraviolet light, which "allows them to see the ultra-violet patterning on flowers" and helps them to more effectively find the pollen!
Butterflies Can Fly at Speeds Of Up to 37 MPH
Skippers are the fastest butterflies in the world, flying at speeds faster than many birds! They are also known for having reaction speeds that are double that of a human!
Butterfly Wings Are Translucent
How can you see the beautiful colors of these brilliantly bright creatures if their wings are clear? They have a layer of scales over the top of the colorless membrane that makes up their wings! "The [butterfly] iridescence is caused by multiple slit interference [... which] occurs when light hitting the wing interacts with light reflected off the wing."
Butterflies are in an order of insects called Lepidoptera. This title means "scaly winged". Moths and skippers also belong to this animal classification.
Approximately 20,000 Species of Butterflies Can Be Found Across the Globe
That's a lot of butterflies! Interestingly enough, the place that is home to the greatest number of these beautiful bugs is Columbia. They have over 3,600 butterfly species and over 2,000 subspecies, which equates to 20% of the world's butterfly population.
Butterflies Have to Reach a Certain Body Temperature to Fly
Many people don't realize that butterflies are cold-blooded creatures. This is one of the main reasons you will see them in sunny spots. Interestingly enough, butterflies can't take to the skies until their body temperatures reach at least 86 degrees Fahrenheit.
Butterflies Don't Poop
That's right! Butterflies drink nectar and use every bit of this food source as energy! This means that they never poop or pee!
Male Butterflies Drink From Mud Puddles
It sounds much less appealing than a drink from a flower, but mud puddles contain minerals and salts that these male butterflies can't get from nectar. This helps them to fly better, and it aids the females during reproduction. This process is called puddling, and groups of butterflies who engage in this activity together are called puddle clubs.
Butterflies Can Be Found on Every Continent but One
As mentioned, warm temperatures are important for butterflies, but these little winged-creatures can still be found in colder locations like Russia, Alaska, and Greenland. The only spot in the world where butterflies will not be found is Antartica. Otherwise, you can find butterflies living on every other continent.
The Biggest Butterfly in History Measured 10.75 Inches
The biggest species of butterfly is the Queen Alexandra's Birdwing. You can find these gorgeous giants in the rainforests of Papua New Guinea, but they are endangered. The males are also much smaller than the females.
The Smallest Butterfly Measures Less Than the Diameter of a Quarter
The Western Pygmy Blue is the tiniest of these beautiful bugs, and it measures between half an inch and three quarters of an inch.
One Butterfly Lives Far Longer Than All the Rest
Most butterflies only live for 2 to 6 weeks, but the Brimstone butterfly can live for up to a year! They do this by hibernating through the cold winters that occur in England where they live.
Marvelous Monarch Butterfly Facts
The most recognizable butterfly in the United States is the Monarch! They have been observed as high as 1,000 feet in the air and can migrate long distances. Here are some more fun facts about this beautiful butterfly.
Monarchs Are Poisonous
When Monarch butterflies are caterpillars, they eat the leaves of a plant called milkweed. This is poisonous, and monarchs retain the toxins found in this plant. This makes them poisonous to predators, which they clearly advertise with their bright orange color. While their predators will probably not die from these toxins, it will make them very sick.
Monarchs Are a Popular State Insect
Monarchs are the official state insect in seven of the U.S. states - Alabama, Idaho, Illinois, Minnesota, Texas, Vermont, and West Virginia.
Monarchs Are Named to Honor the Former Prince of Orange
Due to their vibrant orange color, North American settlers gave Monarchs their name to honor Prince William of Orange, who later went on to become King William III.
Monarch Butterflies Play a Big Role in Día de los Muertos
Every fall, Monarchs make an extraordinary 2,500 mile migration from the United States to central Mexico. Coincidentally, they tend to arrive at their destination during the Day of the Dead celebrations. "Mexican folklore tells us these butterflies are actually the souls of the deceased, visiting the Earth on these holy days to visit relatives and provide comfort."
Many people use the Monarch in their decor, and some even dress up as this beautiful creature for the holiday. The Catholics also see this butterfly as a sign of rebirth, which ties into the themes life and death seen throughout the Día de los Muertos.
Phenomenal Painted Lady Butterfly Facts
Known as the most widespread butterfly on the planet, the Painted Lady is an expert migrator. While they look similar to a Monarch butterfly, their vein pattern is different, and they never follow a seasonal migratory pattern. Here are some more fun facts about this fantastic flyer.
Painted Lady Butterflies Weigh Less than a Paperclip
With a wingspan of under three inches and a weight of less than a gram, these dainty little insects are quite tiny! However, they don't even crack the top ten smallest butterfly list!
Painted Lady Butterflies Can Fly Up to 30 MPH
While not as fast as skippers, Painted Lady butterflies can still move faster than most butterflies! They can also travel up to 100 miles in a day.
Painted Lady Butterflies Make the Longest Migrations
Stealing the crown from the Monarchs, Painted Lady butterflies travel a remarkable 9,000 mile round-trip journey every year from tropical Africa to the Arctic Circle! However, it's important to note that this is a race across the globe that compares to a relay - approximately six generations of butterflies complete the journey, since the time to complete this trek is much longer than their lifespan.
Interesting Facts About Butterfly Life Cycles & Development
Some of the most mysterious facts about butterflies have to do with how they grow and develop. The metamorphosis from caterpillar to butterfly is done in the hidden confines of a chrysalis and seems to be a mysterious process to most people. Some facts about their growth and development are:
- Many caterpillars eat 27,000 times their own body weight before they are ready to enter the chrysalis.
- In the pupa stage, the caterpillar's body is turned to a gel-like liquid and many cells are broken down and reorganized, while some organs stay the same.
- Once a caterpillar hatches from the egg, it can increase its size 30,000 times before it is ready for the pupa stage.
- Chrysalises of certain butterflies can produce small sounds to frighten predators away.
- Once they come out of the chrysalis, the butterfly will hang upside down so fluid from its body flows into the wings with the aid of gravity. This process can take several hours.
The waste leftover from the chrysalis stage is ejected from the anus before the butterfly first flies away. This foul-smelling red liquid is called meconium.
Interesting Facts About Butterflies
- Butterflies can see color and they can even see ultraviolet light. Humans cannot see this type of light.
- Butterflies have the senses of smell, taste, and touch.
- Butterflies eat more than sucking nectar from flowers, they also such up liquids from tree sap, dead animals, poop, animal urine, fruits, and drink sweat and tears.
Butterflies do not sleep (no eyelids) but they do rest at night and can become inactive on cloudy days.
- Butterflies are not necessarily peaceful. They will fight each other for the control of a sunny patch of ground.
- The iridescent colors of the butterfly are caused not by pigmentation but by the light bending through the scales.
Little-Known Facts About Butterflies
- The word butterfly comes from an old English word for butter churn, buttorfleoge.
- The Mourning Cloak butterfly will play dead around predators.
- Butterflies hide in underbrush, leaves, and other places of shelter when it rains. Their wings can become torn from the wind and the heavy rainfall.
- Skippers may be the fastest flying butterfly with speeds of up to 20 miles per hour.
- Butterflies do not use lungs to breathe. Tiny openings (spiracles) in their sides connected to trachea tubes carry oxygen into their bodies.
- The largest butterfly is the Queen Alexandra's Birdwing. It lives on New Guinea and can have a wingspan of 12" or more.
- The Northern Pearly Eye butterfly flies at night.
- Pictures of butterflies can be seen on ancient Egyptian frescoes in Thebes. These frescoes are estimated to be over 3,000 years old.
Don't Let Butterfly Facts Fly Over Your Head
Butterflies are an important part of our world - they pollinate plants more than any other insect except bees. When the eco-system is out-of-balance butterflies begin to die out and are good indicators of a healthy environment. Since the greatest threat to butterflies is loss of habitat knowing more about them is an important way to protect these amazing creatures.
If you are looking for more inspiration from these tiny flyers, make sure to check out our list of butterfly quotes! Also, for kids who want to be a part of a butterfly's life, parents can buy a butterfly growing kit to enjoy at home. Releasing butterflies into nature is an extraordinary experience that your kids will never forget.