50 Facts About Butterflies

Butterflies dance above our heads and shower us in glorious colours, patterns, and wonders. Often we think of them as ‘just annoying insects’, but really they enrich our lives in many ways. There is more to them than just their colourful wings! Read on to learn more about butterflies.

Fact 1: They share the same qualities as Moths, making them one of the most popular creatures in the world.

  • There are 17,500 species of butterfly.
  • They make up almost 10% of the entire population of all the living creatures in the world.

Fact 2: In the US, you’ll probably see the Cabbage White butterfly more than any other butterfly.

  • They are the most common species in America.
  • Although its name is ‘Cabbage White’, it’s not really white. It’s most distinct feature is its 2 black markings located at the top of its wings.

Fact 3: Contrary to popular beliefs, Monarch Butterflies travel a long distance to escape the cold, not to procreate.

  • They fly over 2,500 miles just to find a warm place to settle in.
  • Other butterfly species do the same such as the Red Admiral, Cloudless Sulfur, American Lady and Clouded Skipper.

Fact 4: Climate Change affects butterflies.

  • The North American Monarch Butterflies are severely affected by Climate Change, due to their loss of natural habitats.
  • There has been a significant drop in their population in recent years, as observed by conservationists. Up to 90% of their population has vanished in the last 25 years.

Fact 5: Butterflies don’t have taste buds in their mouth.

  • Instead, they have sensors all over their feet that they use whenever they land on a flower.
  • This will help them determine if they can suck the nectar or not.

Fact 6: Butterflies have super “vision”, which is way better than the human eye.

  • They can see beyond the ultraviolet spectrum, allowing them to see more colours than the human eye.
  • Their eyes also have around 6,000 lenses allowing them to see things from different perspectives, thus helping with their mobility when moving.

Fact 7: Adult butterflies are some of the cleanest animals in the world.

  • Most of them do not secrete any bodily waste at all.
  • Whatever they eat (or suck), they use all of it as energy, making them one of the most efficient creatures in terms of nutrient consumption.

Fact 8: In reality, their wings are colourless.

  • The colourful wings that we love about butterflies are created by light reflecting on their colourless scales.
  • If you touch them and get some powdery remains on your hands this will be the scales that they have shed off.

Fact 9: Butterflies come in different sizes.

  • The smallest butterfly has a wingspan of half an inch. It’s less than half of your thumb.
  • The largest recorded butterfly has a wingspan of over 12 inches.

Fact 10: Butterflies are also picky when it comes to their habitat.

  • Some female butterflies will only lay their eggs on specific plants. They would rather die than lay their eggs on another plant.
  • This is why we are losing some species of butterfly yearly. Because destruction has taken place, butterflies cannot find the right plants to land and lay their eggs on, meaning no new butterflies are born. This is the result of Climate Change and urbanization.

Fact 11: There is a species of butterfly that you can’t outrun.

  • A butterfly known as Skipper can fly faster than a horse, making its speed much faster than the average human.
  • It can fly at an average speed of 30 miles per hour.

Fact 12: Butterflies have extremely long tongues compared to their head.

  • Instead of sucking on their food, they actually use their tongues to soak up the nutrients.
  • Don’t be afraid if a butterfly touches you, it’s probably just tasting your skin.

Fact 13: There are also some bloodsucking butterflies.

  • This species is like the vampire bat, the difference being these butterflies don’t have teeth.
  • Don’t worry, this butterfly species won’t bite you to suck out your blood. Instead, they soak their tongues on the open wounds of animals.

Fact 14: Male butterflies engage in an activity called ‘puddling’.

  • Butterflies who engage in ‘puddling’ are actually searching through mud puddles for nourishment.
  • A group of male butterflies ‘puddling’ is called a “puddle club.”

Fact 15: Scientist thought that butterflies were deaf.

  • It was only in 2012 when scientist discovered that butterflies actually have ears.
  • Some butterflies have their ears on their wings, making it easier for them to hear if a predator is approaching.

Fact 16: Butterflies are cold-blooded animals.

  • If the temperature drops to 55 Fahrenheit, they won’t be able to fly.
  • Since they can’t regulate their own body temperature, they are completely immobilized in cold temperatures.

Fact 17: Transforming creatures.

  • It takes almost 15 days for a cocoon to hatch and transform into a butterfly.
  • The transformational journey of the butterfly is often used as a metaphor in the human world.

Fact 18: A man who loves butterflies, saved one species from extinction.

  • A man in San Francisco saved a species of butterfly by planting a rare flora in his backyard, and he transported caterpillars into his garden.
  • This encouraged re-population, resulting in this particular butterfly species coming back to life in their hordes.

Fact 19: Some butterflies can detect graveyards.

  • Artemisia vulgaris is a specific plant that grows on the soil above mass graves, being a butterfly favourite, it encourages them to visit.
  • Forensic teams use this particular species to find mass grave locations.

Fact 20: Butterflies still remember their days as caterpillars.

  • Although they become liquid during the metamorphosis stage, the neurons in their brains are still organized allowing them to have a complete recollection of their early days.
  • This is the reason why certain species of butterfly only go to one type of plant, the same plant where they spent their caterpillar days.

Fact 21: Butterflies need sodium in their body, they will drink turtle tears to get it.

  • A species in the Amazon is known for flying around turtles and waiting for them to secrete tears so they can drink them.
  • But don’t worry, it won’t fly around you waiting for you to cry. They use turtles as they are known for staying still for long periods of time.

Fact 22: The origin of the word butterfly means “butter shitter.”

  • It comes from an old Dutch word, “boterschijte”, because of its yellow excrement.
  • They are also known to fly around farms where butter is made, hence the name.

Fact 23: Costa Rica is a butterfly haven.

  • This country is blessed to be the home of 10% of all the butterfly species in the world.
  • You’ll see a variety of colourful butterflies in Costa Rica, in different sizes.

Fact 24: There are many hermaphrodite butterflies.

  • Although few, some butterflies have both a colourful wing and a plain coloured wing, indicating they are both male and female.
  • Other insects show the same behaviour, that sometimes aids them in reproducing quickly.

Fact 25: There are also parasitic butterflies who are terrorizing ants.

  • Some parasitic butterflies mimic ants, so the worker ants work for them.
  • It gets crazy, to the point that ant workers will attack their real queens, just to protect the parasitic butterfly.

Fact 26: Up until now, the glue produced by butterflies to attach their eggs on to leaves is still unknown.

  • The glue used by butterflies is so strong, it’s nearly impossible to remove the eggs from the leaves.
  • Scientists are still puzzled on the composition of the compound used and why it behaves that way.

Fact 27: There is an almost transparent butterfly.

  • Greta oto is one of the most amazing butterflies in terms of camouflage. Since it has almost transparent wings, it can easily hide from predators.
  • The reason for this is because its wings have low light absorption.

Fact 28: You can differentiate a moth and a butterflies by the way they rest.

  • A moth will rest with its wings wide open, while butterflies close their wings when resting.
  • Also, butterflies are mostly day fliers, while moths explore at night.

Fact 29: Butterflies have long antennae to let them know the time.

  • This is the reason why they only fly in the day and rest at night.
  • The antennae also serves as personal flight navigation system.

Fact 30: Females are more dominant than males.

  • In majority of the butterfly species’, females are larger than their male counterparts.
  • They also have a longer lifespan, as they are tasked to lay the eggs.

Fact 31: Butterflies are present in all 6 continents, except Antarctica.

  • Since they are cold-blooded, they wouldn’t be able to flap their wings in the extreme weather conditions in Antarctica.
  • Experiments have been conducted to see if butterflies could adapt to the cold weather in Antarctica, but all of them failed.

Fact 32: Butterflies have their skeletons outside of their bodies.

  • This is known as an exoskeleton and this supports the butterflies body.
  • They are distant relatives of crabs and lobsters, as both also have an exoskeleton bodies.

Fact 33: They are essential to pollination.

  • In fact, they are the largest pollinators after bees.
  • That is why it is important to look after them, their habitats and their natural environments.

Fact 34: Butterflies are very light, they weigh the equivalent of about 2 rose petals.

  • That’s why even if a butterfly touches you, you won’t feel it unless their feet touch your skin.
  • Although they are light, they can carry 50x their own weight. This is the equivalent of a  human carrying 2 cars.

Fact 35: There is a farm in Papua New Guinea where you can buy butterflies.

  • Butterfly breeding is a well-established industry in this country.
  • They are commonly sold to foreign collectors.

Fact 36: There is a species of Butterfly known as 89 98.

  • This is because of their distinct wing markings.
  • In one wing, 89 is visible, while 98 can be seen in the other wing.

Fact 37: If you’ve seen a butterfly with a broken wing, don’t panic! You can repair it.

  • You can glue them back together, and it’ll work like it is brand new.
  • Be careful when re-attaching wings, because they are very fragile.

Fact 38: Many caterpillars are covered with stinging hair that releases painful toxins when touched.

  • This is a common problem for those who hike in forested areas, as caterpillars are difficult to spot in the wild.
  • Being touched by a caterpillar will cause painful and itchy hives on the body, but that can be treated with antihistamines.

Fact 39: The lifespan of a butterfly ranges from a few weeks to a year.

  • In fact, most adult butterflies only live for 2-4 days. Exceptions are given to some bigger butterflies that can live a few months.
  • Some smaller butterflies live only for a day, just enough for them to procreate.

Fact 40: All adult butterflies live on a liquid diet.

  • Some of them are pure herbivores, only drinking nectars and mud water.
  • Butterflies drink liquid by using a proboscis. This is part of their mouth and acts as a straw.  

Fact 41: A newly emerged butterfly cannot fly.

  • When a butterfly emerges from its cocoon, it has to expand its wings and pump liquid through all of its veins to get them working.
  • Once the wings have expanded to full size, the butterfly must wait a few hours to make sure that the wings are completely hardened.

Fact 42: Butterflies are nearsighted creatures.

  • They don’t need glasses to see. They use their multiple eye lenses to detect changes in their surroundings.
  • They cannot assess depth and distance like humans.

Fact 43: Butterflies use different techniques to avoid being food for predators.

  • Some butterflies mimic their surroundings, and pretend to be a much larger predator.
  • Some butterflies have fake heads at the end of their wings, so predators think they can see them.

Fact 44: Butterflies were once thought to steal butter.

  • In the olden days, people used to think that butterflies stole their butter. They thought this  because they used to find a lot of butterflies flying around the places where butter was made and stored.
  • But it was a coincidence, the butterflies were only flying around these buildings because these buildings were often placed near bodies of water where flowers bloomed.

Fact 45: There is a species of butterfly that attacks its predators.

  • When alone the Mourning Cloak butterfly tries hides when there’s a predator around.
  • However, if there are many of them, they usually attack the predator like small birds and other insects to shoo them away.

Fact 46: There is a species of butterfly that changes its appearance depending on the season.

  • The Squinting Bush Brown has a large mark on its wing that looks like a  huge brown eye during the dry season.
  • In the wet season, they have a brand new pattern that mimics the wetter environment.

Fact 47: In some culture, butterflies signify the soul.

  • In Japan, if a butterfly flies around you, it means the person you want to see or miss the most will pay you a visit.
  • In the Philippines, when a black butterfly flies around you, it means someone close to you is about to die, or a dead loved one is paying you a visit.

Fact 48: Butterfly mating can last from a few minutes to a few hours.

  • Mating is a priority for adult butterflies.
  • The female butterfly usually initiates the mating process, attracting a male by flying around them.

Fact 49: The butterflies we know today, evolved from nocturnal butterflies from millions of years ago.

  • Daytime butterflies occurred because there were too many threats from other nocturnal predators millions of years ago. These threats diminished the butterfly population, they had to adapt.
  • Being awake during the daytime also allowed them to explore more and pollinate more flowers.

Fact 50: Butterflies and ants have a weird relationship.

  • Some species of butterfly can communicate with ants.
  • Some ants act as a bodyguard to the butterflies.

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