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Bugs Trivia 2 - Butterflies
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The favourite insect for many people is the butterfly. Learn more about this delightful creature on this page of fascinating facts.
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Zephyr Anglewing, Polygonia gracilis zephyrus
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Zebra Longwing Butterfly, Heliconius charitonia
Butterflies and moths belong to the order of insects called Lepidoptera. Lepidoptera comes from the Ancient Greek words of lepido for scale and ptera for wings.
 
There are about 725 species of butterflies in the USA and Canada an amazing 20,000 around the world.
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Milbert's Tortoiseshell, Aglais milberts
Spring Azure, Celastrina ladon
Butterflies have found in all continents except for Antarctica.
The life span of adult butterflies is short ranging from a few days to a few months. The Azure Blue lives for about four days and the Mourning Cloak lives for less than a year.
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Milbert's Tortoiseshell, Aglais milberts
Woodland Skipper
When butterflies land they hold their wings close together while moths spread out their wings or curl them around their bodies.
Butterflies have six legs, four wings, two antennae, two compound eyes and a proboscis which is special organ used for sucking and feeding.
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Pacific Orangetip (Sara Orangetip), Anthocharis sara
Purplish Copper, Lycaena helloi
The scales on butterfly wings are actually tiny, flat hairs which create the dazzling colours and patterns.
Most butterflies have thread-like antennae that are club tipped.
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Mariposa Copper, Lycaena mariposa
Painted Lady Butterfly, Vanessa cardui
Butterflies use their antennae to smell.
Butterflies do not have a mouth but have taste sensors on their feet. They stand on a leaf to test if it would be good food for their caterpillars.
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Western Tiger Swallowtail, Papilio rutulus
 
Mariposa Copper, Lycaena mariposa
Butterflies can only see the colours red, green, and yellow.
 
Butterflies can fly up to a speed of 12 miles per hour (19 km/hr).
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Great Spangled Fritillary, Speyeria cybele
Lorquin's Admiral, Limenitis lorquini
Butterflies fly like birds do by flapping their wings. Each species of butterfly has its own wing pattern much like a fingerprint.
Butterflies can only fly when their wing muscles are warm, so they bask in the sun with their wings soaking up energy like solar panels.
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Monarch Butterfly, Danaus plexippus
Painted lady, Vanessa cardui
The Monarch Butterfly migrates to Canada and the USA from Mexico a distance of over 2500 miles/4000 km, but few actually make the entire journey as it takes longer than the adult monarch's life span.
Another great migration involves the Painted Lady to England from the desert fringes of North Africa, a distance of 900 miles/1500 km.
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Adult Pine White, Neophasia menapia
Monarch Caterpillar
There are four parts to a butterfly's life cycle: egg, larva, pupa and adult.
Caterpillars are the larvae stage of butterflies. They spend most of their time searching for and consuming plant leaves.
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Anise Larva
Anise Swallowtail Caterpillar
Caterpillars have three pairs of true legs and several pairs of prolegs which fleshy structures with gripping hooks called crochets.
As the caterpillar grows it molts several times. The Anise Butterfly caterpillar molts five times changing from the early black and white to a greener caterpillar.
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Monarch caterpiller on milkweed
Anise Larva
The Monarch Butterfly caterpillars and several other species eat the leaves of toxic plants but are immune to the toxins.
Caterpillars breathe through small openings down the side of their bodies. These openings are called spiracles.
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Woodland Skipper, Ochlodes sylvanoides   Mourning Clock Butterfly, Nymphalis antiopa
Butterflies are divided into families with the largest being the Skippers (Hesperiidae) of which there are over 3500 species. Skippers have antennae clubs that are hooked backwards like a crochet hook.
14 American states have selected a butterfly as their official insect such as Montana which has selected the Mourning Clock Butterfly, Nymphalis antiopa. Some states have an official insect and butterfly.
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Monarch Butterfly, Danaus plexippus
Monarch Butterflies are toxic to many vertebrate predators. Toxic species usually have bright colours such as red or orange which act as a warning to predators like birds.
The most common butterfly is the Small Cabbage White, Pieris rapae, found in Europe, Asia, North Africa and introduced to North America, Australia and New Zealand.
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