Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

10 Super Cool Facts About Butterflies

Animals

By Judy Molland

From those small cabbage whites to the largest swallowtails, there are thousands of unique and beloved butterfly species on the planet. Many of us see them outside every day in the spring and summer, but how much do you know about these colorful insects?

The Cabbage White is the most common butterfly in the U.S. Photo credit: Thinkstock

Here are 10 fascinating facts to consider next time you cross a butterfly's path:

1. There are more than 17,500 recorded butterfly species around the world, 750 of which can be found in the U.S.

2. Butterflies and moths are part of the class of insects in the order Lepidoptera. Butterflies are flying insects with large scaly wings. Like all insects, they have six jointed legs and three body parts: the head, the thorax and the abdomen. The wings are attached to the thorax and they also have a pair of antennae, compound eyes and an exoskeleton.

3. The Cabbage White, seen above, is the most common butterfly in the U.S. Although it appears mostly white with black markings on the top of its wings, underneath those wings are yellowish-green. These butterflies have a wing spread of just about two inches. Males have only one spot on each wing, while females have two. As you probably know, you can find Cabbage Whites in most open spaces, including gardens, roadsides, parks and cities.

4. Monarch butterflies migrate to get away from the cold. However, they are the only insect that migrates an average of 2,500 miles to find a warmer climate. The iconic North American Monarch has been greatly affected by extreme weather events, going through drastic dips and spikes in numbers over the past several decades. The overall pattern continues to point downward, with a 95 percent population decline over the last 20 years, but conservation efforts are helping: There were more monarch butterflies migrating in 2015 than there were in 2014.

Monarch Butterfly. Photo credit: Thinkstock

5. Monarchs are not the only butterfly that migrate. The Painted Lady, American Lady, Red Admiral, Cloudless Sulphur, Skipper, Sachem, Question Mark, Clouded Skipper, Fiery Skipper and Mourning Cloak are among the other butterflies that also migrate, but not as far as the Monarchs.

6. The Common Buckeye Butterfly is one of the most striking butterflies, with its bold multicolored eyespots and thick upper-wing bars, all designed to frighten away any birds that might be tempted to chomp on them. If you look under its wings, you'll find a more abstract profusion of brown, orange and beige. These insects are pretty common all over North and Central America, although you won't find them in the Pacific Northwest or in the far north of Canada.

The Common Buckeye Butterfly. Photo credit: Thinkstock

7. The Orange Barred Sulphur Butterfly is one that you can find all over the Americas and the Caribbean. It's very distinctive, being bright yellow with patches of orange marking both forewings and hindwings. Females tend to be bigger and darker than their male counterparts and unusually, just like the adult butterflies, the caterpillars also have bright yellow bodies segmented by dark stripes.

The Orange Barred Sulphur Butterfly. Photo credit: Thinkstock

8. Speaking of caterpillars, how much do you know about the life cycle of a butterfly? The butterfly starts its life as an egg, laid on a leaf. The caterpillar (larva) hatches from the egg and eats leaves or flowers. It loses its skin many times as it grows, increasing greatly in size. Eventually it turns into a pupa, or chrysalis and finally a beautiful adult butterfly emerges and the cycle continues.

9. An adult butterfly has a very short life: just three to four weeks. However, the entire life cycle of a butterfly can range between 2 and 8 months, depending on the species. Some migratory butterflies, such as the North American Monarch, can live as long as 7 to 8 months in one generation.

10. The Giant Swallowtail Butterfly, as its name implies, is one of the biggest butterflies, with a wing spread of four to seven inches. The female is once again bigger than the male. It too is found throughout North America and sometimes as far south as South America. These butterflies are called “swallow" because they have long tails on their hind wings that resemble the long, pointed tails of the birds known as swallows.

The Giant Swallowtail Butterfly. Photo credit: Brian Gratwicke

Be sure to get outside this summer and look around for butterflies and other wildlife in your backyard. If you see a butterfly but aren't sure about the species, you can consult this handy identification guide.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

Esther the Wonder Pig: Changing the World One Heart at a Time

See the World From a Polar Bear's Point Of View

9 Super Cool Facts About Sea Turtles

12 Fascinating Facts About Fireflies

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

A protest against the name of the Washington Redskins in Minneapolis, Minnesota on Nov. 2, 2014. Fibonacci Blue / CC BY 2.0

The Washington Redskins will retire their controversial name and logo, the National Football League (NFL) team announced Monday.

Read More Show Less
The survival tools northern fish have used for millennia could be a disadvantage as environmental conditions warm and more fast-paced species move in. Istvan Banyai / Wikimedia Commons / CC by 3.0

By Alyssa Murdoch, Chrystal Mantyka-Pringle and Sapna Sharma

Summer has finally arrived in the northern reaches of Canada and Alaska, liberating hundreds of thousands of northern stream fish from their wintering habitats.

Read More Show Less
A mother walks her children through a fountain on a warm summer day on July 12, 2020 in Hoboken, New Jersey. Gary Hershorn / Getty Images

A heat wave that set in over the South and Southwest left much of the U.S. blanketed in record-breaking triple digit temperatures over the weekend. The widespread and intense heat wave will last for weeks, making the magnitude and duration of its heat impressive, according to The Washington Post.

Read More Show Less
If you get a call from a number you don't recognize, don't hit decline — it might be a contact tracer calling to let you know that someone you've been near has tested positive for the coronavirus. blackCAT / Getty Images

By Joni Sweet

If you get a call from a number you don't recognize, don't hit decline — it might be a contact tracer calling to let you know that someone you've been near has tested positive for the coronavirus.

Read More Show Less
Aerial view of burnt areas of the Amazon rainforest, near Porto Velho, Rondonia state, Brazil, on Aug. 24, 2019. CARLOS FABAL / AFP via Getty Images

NASA scientists say that warmer than average surface sea temperatures in the North Atlantic raise the concern for a more active hurricane season, as well as for wildfires in the Amazon thousands of miles away, according to Newsweek.

Read More Show Less
A baby receives limited treatment at a hospital in Yemen on June 27, 2020. Mohammed Hamoud / Anadolu Agency / Getty Images

By Andrea Germanos

Oxfam International warned Thursday that up to 12,000 people could die each day by the end of the year as a result of hunger linked to the coronavirus pandemic—a daily death toll surpassing the daily mortality rate from Covid-19 itself.

Read More Show Less

Trending

The 2006 oil spill was the largest incident in Philippine history and damaged 1,600 acres of mangrove forests. Shubert Ciencia / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

By Jun N. Aguirre

An oil spill on July 3 threatens a mangrove forest on the Philippine island of Guimaras, an area only just recovering from the country's largest spill in 2006.

Read More Show Less