If you’ve ever been fortunate enough to view a butterfly up close, you’ll no doubt have noticed just how beautiful these creatures are.
Coming in a variety of different shapes, sizes, colours, and patterns, these amazing creatures brighten up gardens, woodland, coastal regions, and even urban settings. Closely resembling moths, there are currently 180,000 different kinds of moths and butterflies found on every continent in the world, other than the Antarctic.
If you love to view a butterfly up close and watch them fly gracefully around your garden from flower to flower, you’ll love this article that we have for you today.
For those of you who are interested in learning about butterflies, here’s a look at several fascinating facts about butterflies that you probably weren’t aware of beforehand. Check them out and see what you think.
1. When Looking At A Butterfly Up Close You Will Notice That Their Wings Are Actually Transparent
What?! That’s obviously a lie, after all, butterflies come in a variety of different patterns and colours so the wings are obviously not see-through, right? Well, actually, they are.
You see, if you examine a butterfly up close, you’ll see that the wings are actually covered in thousands upon thousands of tiny scales which reflect the light in different ways, creating the beautiful and unique colours and patterns we see on them. Located underneath these scales, however, you will find layers of a protein called Chitin, which is the same protein that makes up an insect’s exoskeleton.
Because the layers of Chitin are so thin, you can see through the wings, therefore technically making them transparent.
If you ever do look at a butterfly up close and examine its wings, if you notice a few transparent patches, this is likely an older butterfly, as the older a butterfly gets the more scales they will lose, leaving exposed patches of chitin.
2. There Are Close To 20,000 Species Of Butterfly
Thought you’d seen virtually every species of butterfly in the world? Think again. There are currently around 17,500 species of butterfly around the world, with 59 species being found in the UK. If you enjoy looking at a butterfly up close, you will notice each wing design is different.
Some of the more common species we find in this country include Red Admiral, Tortoiseshell, Common Blue, Painted Lady, Orange Tip, Peacock, and Cabbage White.
3. Not All Butterflies Are A Gardener’s Friend
In general, butterflies are revered by gardeners here in the UK, as it is very pleasant to look at a butterfly up close on a warm sunny day in the garden, plus they are pollinators so will help to pollinate flowers. Some species of butterfly, however, will not exactly be welcomed by gardeners.
The cabbage white butterfly, for example, is also known as the small white butterfly. It tends to be attracted to cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, kale, and spinach. The cabbage white will lay its eggs on these greens, which will hatch into hungry caterpillars who will be able to munch their way through an entire crop of green veggies in no time at all.
Needless to say, gardeners and allotment owners don’t exactly enjoy seeing these butterflies. The easiest way to keep them off your crops is to simply use a butterfly net to prevent the butterfly from getting to the leaves and laying its eggs on them.
Just to make matters worse for our U.S friends, the most common butterfly species in North America happens to be the Cabbage White.
4. A Butterfly Tastes With Its Feet
As bizarre as this may sound, it’s absolutely true and when you think about it, it makes perfect sense.
When looking at a butterfly up close, you will notice that they have taste receptors in their feet so they know that when they land on something, whether or not they can use it for food.
Female butterflies, for example, will land on a plant and drum the leaves with their feet until the plants secrete naturally occurring fluids. Upon the feet and legs of the butterfly, you will find chemoreceptors that detect which plant chemicals have been secreted. Once she is happy that the plant in question is a suitable host, she will then lay her eggs on the plant.
It isn’t just for laying eggs that butterflies have taste receptors on their feet, however. When observing a butterfly up close you will notice that they use their feet to test for dissolved sugars to determine whether or not he or she has landed on, or is in contact with, edible food sources such as fruit.
5. Butterflies Don’t Have Two Wings
If you see basic drawings of butterflies, you’ll see that usually, the butterfly is depicted as having two wings. This is not true, though. In reality, when looking at a butterfly up close you will see that they have four wings.
If you take a look at a butterfly up close, you’ll see that butterflies have two larger wings higher up their torsos, and two smaller wings located lower down on their lower bodies.
6. The Largest Butterfly In The World Is Pretty Large
Though most species of butterfly that we see in this country are very similar in size, there are some pretty hefty butterfly species scattered around the world.
The largest butterfly in the world is the female Queen Alexandra’s Birdwing, which is native to Papua New Guinea and boasts an average wingspan of a whopping 25cm. That’s nearly one foot!
7. The Smallest Butterfly In The World Is Pretty Small
On the flipside, whereas the female Queen Alexandra butterfly is very large, the Western Blue Pygmy butterfly is very small. In fact, it is the smallest butterfly in the world.
At just 2cm across, the Western Blue Pygmy butterfly, which is native to North America, is the smallest butterfly species on the planet.
8. Butterflies Don’t Have A Long Lifespan
Unfortunately, butterflies have not yet discovered the Fountain of Youth as they have an extremely short lifespan by our standards.
Butterflies live for an average of just three to four weeks. Just remember, however, that the lifecycle also consists of Egg, caterpillar, pupa, and adult, so in total, the life cycle lasts for a more respectable 7 – 12 months, depending on the species and other variables.
9. Butterflies Require Heat To Move
Like most insects, and indeed, most wildlife we see in our gardens, butterflies require heat in order to move and function.
The reason you don’t see butterflies in the winter when it’s cold, grey, wet, windy, icy, and even snowy, is because butterflies have to “recharge” in the sunshine. If you see a butterfly in the sunshine not moving, this is because it’s warming up its wings in order for it to fly.
10. Moths Navigate Via The Moon
Okay, we know we’re talking about butterflies here, but come on, the two are very closely related and they do look very similar so we’re including this fact.
Moths use the moon to navigate which is why you normally see them at night. It’s also why they’re normally bashing themselves relentlessly into your light or your TV because they’re mistaking this light for the moonlight.
11. Butterflies Use Puddles As Supplements
In order to fuel our bodies and make up for any mineral deficiencies, we normally use health supplements or foods enriched in vitamins and minerals needed by the body. It turns out that butterflies have the same idea.
Rather than heading to the nearest health store and picking up a pack of multivitamins and minerals, though, a butterfly will instead look for a muddy puddle somewhere and drink from there. Contained in the puddle will be minerals from the rain, the earth, and the rocks and the butterfly will drink this mineral water to stock up on essential nutrients.
We hope that this article has given you some fun and interesting facts about one of the most beautiful species the planet has to offer and that the next time you view a butterfly up close and watch them fly gracefully around your garden, you will be able to share some very interesting facts with your friends and family.