“If nothing ever changed, there would be no butterflies”
This week’s blog comes on a lighter note – we are going spend some time discussing these beautiful, flying insects.
Some basic anatomy of the butterfly: they have 6 jointed legs, 3 body parts (head, thorax, and abdomen), a set of antennas, compound eyes and an exoskeleton. There are tiny sensory hairs covering the butterfly’s body. The butterfly is the only insect that has scaly wings with the exception of a moth. There veins support their wings and provide them with blood. As a butterfly begins to age, their wing’s color begins to fade and start to become ragged.
DID YOU KNOW? The butterfly can only fly if their body temperature is above 86 degrees. If not warm enough, the butterfly will sun itself to warm up. [I wasn’t aware of this! Pretty cool!]
Most people know that a butterfly transforms from a caterpillar, but the butterfly first starts as an egg, often laid on a leaf. Once the egg hatches it turns into a larva or caterpillar and immediately begins to eat leaves and flowers. The caterpillar will then molt multiple times as it grows. FUN FACT: the caterpillar will grow in size up to several thousand times before it turns into a pupa! During the pupa phase the cocoon goes into a resting stage and once completed morphs into the beautiful butterfly. And this is the circle of life for the butterfly.
Butterflies are very smart creatures- both male and female. For instance, prior to laying her eggs – the female butterfly looks for a plant to lay her eggs on that she knows will serve as food for when the caterpillar breaks out of the egg. This is done by identifying it’s leaf color and shape. And for the male, when he is looking for a mate, he will fly over an area that is filled with butterflies – should he see a potential mate he will fly in for a closer look. The male butterfly is able to determine if the female is a match based off her color and wing pattern.
There a few caterpillars that are meat-eaters and will chow down on the woolly aphids. But primarily you will find them nibbling on leaves while using their powerful jaws to chew up the food prior to digestion. Interestingly enough – the caterpillars first meal is actually his own eggshell. However, the butterfly can only sip liquid food while using it’s long and flexible tongue also known as a proboscis. While the caterpillar lives on vegetation – the butterfly lives on the nectar from flowers as well as rotting fruit.
And now you know a little bit more about the life of a butterfly, I hope that you will slow down the next time you see one and appreciate the gorgeous (and surprisingly smart!) fluttering, winged creature.