A Queen Butterfly and a Monarch Butterfly feeding on a Mexican Sunflower (Tithonia rotundifolia) at the Butterfly Rainforest at the Florida Natural History Museum.
Date 4 April 2007
There are approximately 15,000 species of butterflies from the Class Insecta and the Order Lepidoptera (which also includes Moths). The tropical belt holds the largest diversity of butterfly species, with South America having the richest amount. Butterflies (and moths) are the only group of insects that have scales covering their wings, although some butterflies have reduced scales. They differ from other insects also by their ability to coil up their proboscis.
A butterfly starts life as a very small, round, oval or cylindrical egg. When the egg hatches, a caterpillar emerges and eats the leaf he/she was born onto. Each caterpillar type likes only certain types of leaves. When a caterpillar starts eating, it instantly starts growing and expanding. The exoskeleton (skin) does not stretch or grow, so it grows by “molting” (shedding the outgrown skin) several times while it grows. As soon as a caterpillar is fully grown, it forms itself into a pupa, also known as a chrysalis. Inside the pupa, the caterpillar is rapidly changing. A butterfly will emerge from the chrysalis, with the wings being soft and folded against its body, because the butterfly had to fit all of its parts inside of the pupa.
As soon as the butterfly has rested after coming out of the chrysalis, it will pump blood into the wings in order to get them working and flapping. Usually within a three or four-hour period, the butterfly will master flying. A typical time period for this process from egg to butterfly would be from two to three weeks. Butterflies feed by drinking. They have a long narrow tube in their mouth called a proboscis that acts as a straw. Butterflies can eat anything that can dissolve in water. They mostly feed on nectar from flowers but also eat tree sap, dung, pollen, or rotting fruit. They are attracted to sodium found in salt and sweat.
Picture by Carolyn L’Hommedieu
Butterflies have a short life span of only two weeks, but they make the best of the time given to them. They also help pollinate flowers by picking up pollen on their bodies and transferring the pollen to other flowers. Pollination is when pollen drifts down the style of the flower until it reaches the plant’s ovum, which it fertilizes. Agents that spread pollen from flower to flower include insects such as bees and butterflies as well as birds and other animals. Certain flowers are also fertilized by pollen that is carried by wind.
For beautiful pictures and an explanation of how this creature came to be called a “butterfly, click on the following link.
To see the top 10 rarest butterfly species in the world, click on the following link.
Symbolic significance of the Butterfly
The butterfly is the symbol of change, joy and color.
It is the symbol of the soul. Butterflies remind us that life is a dance, not to take things quite so seriously. They also remind us to get up and move. Dance brings the sweetness of life. Butterflies bring color and joy to your life. Look at them and remember what joy is in your life, if it’s a lot or a little, it is still joy. They teach us that growth and transformation does not have to be traumatic; it can occur gently, sweetly, and joyfully. [ from Lins Domain ]
To learn about the “Butterfly Maiden” – an American Indian Goddess, please click here.