Ten Questions: Butterflies

Butterflies are the flowers of the animal kingdom. An even better name for them is flying flowers. They are some of the most beautiful creatures on the face of the Earth. But what do we really know about them? Today we are going to ask Ten Questions about them and hopefully get ten good answers about butterflies.

Now let's get to the questions!

01. What is a butterfly?
Butterflies are insects. The moth, butterfly and skipper have exoskeletons and jointed limbs, but unlike other insects, the three all have membranous wings covered with pigmented scales, which give their taxonomic order its name, "Lepidoptera," or "scaly wings." Butterflies look flashier than the other two with their brightly colored wings, and are seen more in the daytime.

02. What is the difference between butterflies, moths, and skippers?
A butterfly, when at rest, holds it wings in an extended upward spread or in a vertical position above the body. A moth, when at rest, spreads its wings flat or holds them pitched, like a roof, over its heavy-bodied thorax and abdomen. A skipper, when at rest, typically holds its short wings, much like a butterfly, in a near vertical position above. The difference is that it has a moth-like body.

Butterflies have antenna that terminate in knobs. Moths have thread-like or plume-like antenna with no knobs at the end. Skippers have antenna that terminate in knobs that often have fine hook-like extensions.

03. How big are butterflies?
Butterflies range in size from a tiny 1/8 inch to a huge almost 12 inches.

04. How fast can a butterfly fly?
The top butterfly flight speed is 12 miles per hour.

05. How many kinds of butterfly exist?
There are about 24,000 species of butterflies. And Antarctica is the only continent in the world where they can't be found. Many species migrate to avoid adverse conditions. Most migrate relatively short distances, but monarchs and several other species migrate thousands of miles.

06. Do butterflies have skeletons?
Yes, butterflies do have skeletons. They have their skeletons on the outside of their bodies, called the exoskeleton. This protects the butterflies and keeps water inside their bodies so they don’t dry out.

07. What do butterflies eat?
When a butterfly is a caterpillar its first meal is its own eggshell. It then spends most of its time eating the leaves of the plant on which it hatched. An adult butterfly uncoils its long, straw-like proboscis to sip nectar from flowers, juice from rotting fruit and water from puddles.

08. Do any animals eat butterflies? Which ones?
Some of the common predators of butterflies include wasps, ants, parasitic flies, birds, snakes, toads, rats, lizards, dragonflies and even monkeys! A few of the other animals that sometimes add butterflies onto their menu list are frogs and spiders. These predators eat butterflies as butterfly eggs, caterpillars and adult butterflies.There are many more predators of butterflies, but these are the most common.

09. Can butterflies defend themselves?
Yes they can. Many butterflies have developed interesting ways of defending themselves from predators. One method is disguise, where the butterfly has the ability to look like a leaf or blend into the bark of a tree to hide from predators. Another method is chemical defense, where the butterfly has evolved to have toxic chemicals in its body. These species of butterfly are often brightly colored, and predators have learned over time to associate their bright color with the bad taste of the chemicals. There are other butterflies that mimic these butterflies. This is another form of disguise mentioned above.

10. What kinds of life changes does a butterfly go through?
A butterfly goes through a series of physical metamorphosis. After mating, the female butterfly lays her eggs on a caterpillar host plant. The eggs then hatch as caterpillars. The caterpillar sheds its skin several times during this stage. It then seeks a sheltered spot, suspends itself by silken threads and sheds one last time to reveal skin that will harden to form the chrysalis or pupa. Days, months or even years later, depending on the species, a fully developed winged adult emerges from the chrysalis and the cycle begins all over again.

How did you like this interesting bit of trivia? Obviously we can't answer all questions in just one article, but if we get enough feedback and a lot of comments we might just revisit this subject with another ten questions.


  1. Well I learn something new everyday. 'Skipper' is a new term for me.

    Do you know the name of the documentary in which a man developed a sensor small enough and light weight enough for a butterfly ? It was to allow scientists to actually track (GPS) a single monarch butterfly for its whole life . I was hoping to reconnect to see how it's going.

  2. They taunt and torment me to get an even better picture.

  3. wow...some really interesting facts...I had never heard of a skipper...I thought there were just moths and butterflies!!


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