Butterflies belong to the order Lepidoptera. Lepidos is Greek for “scales” and ptera means “wing”. Lepidoptera is a very large group. It is amazing to know that there are more types of butterflies than any other type of insects, except the beetles.
There exist about 200,000 species of Lepidoptera (moths and butterflies) and approximately 15,000 of these species are butterflies. Butterflies are found all over the world, and in any types of environments; hot or cold, dry or moist.
They exist at the sea level as well as at 2000 meters high in the mountains! The biggest known butterfly is Queen Alexandra’s Birdwing (Ornithoptera alexandrae) with a wing span of 11-1/8 inches.
It is also the rarest and is found only in the rain forest of New Guinea. The smallest butterfly, the Pygmy Blue (Brephidium exilis), is found in the southern United States and has a wingspan of 1/2 inch.
This most beautiful flying insect, has six jointed legs, 3 body parts, a pair of antennae, compound eyes, and an exoskeleton. The three body parts are the head, thorax (the chest), and abdomen (the tail end). Butterflies can see all the colors of the visible spectrum, plus ultra violet. Butterflies communicate mostly through chemical signals.
Butterflies have a very short life span, sometimes just about 5-6 days to find a mate, copulate, search for oviposition sites, and lay their eggs.
Butterflies go through four different life stages –
- Egg – Life starts here and eggs are usually laid on leaves.
- Larva – The larva or caterpillar as we know it hatches from an egg and feeds on leaves or flowers. The size of the caterpillar increase up to several thousand times before pupating.
- Pupa – The larva turns into a pupa (chrysalis). The chrysalis (or pupa) is the transformation stage within which the caterpillar tissues are broken down and the adult insect’s structures are formed.
- Adult – The adult (or imago) is a colorful butterfly or moth that we usually see. This is the reproductive and mobile stage for the species when they are breed, migrate or colonize new habitats.