You may enjoy seeing butterflies flit around your garden or land on your deck, but how much do you really know about these fascinating creatures? Butterflies are beautiful, but they are also an integral part of the environment, contributing to agriculture and even serving as an early warning system for climate change.
Here are 10 things you may not know about the most beautiful residents of the insect kingdom.
Monarch butterflies are the world travelers of the insect world. These colorful creatures embark on an annual migration of more than 2,000 miles, traveling from the Great Lakes all the way to the Gulf of Mexico and back again. During its migration, each butterfly relies on the huge volume of food it ate when it was a caterpillar for fuel.
Many people do not realize that over a million Monarchs also make a western migration. Monarchs west of the continental divide overwinter along the coast of California and breed on milkweed as far north as Washington and British Columbia.
#2. Most Varied Sizes
The smallest butterfly is almost invisible to the naked eye at barely 1/8 of an inch long. The largest butterfly is the size of a dinner plate, as large as 12 inches. There are approximately 20,000 species of butterflies in the world. About 725 species have occurred in North American north of Mexico, with about 575 of these occurring regularly in the lower 48 states of the United States
#3. Butterflies Can Taste With Their Feet
Butterflies use their entire bodies to sense their environments and enhance their odds of survival. When checking out potential leaves for their caterpillars, butterflies actually taste their surroundings with their feet. Those sense organs are so strong, that they can taste the sugar in nectar, letting the butterfly know if something is good to eat or not.
Many people think that butterflies are color blind, but that is not the case. Butterflies can see a limited range of colors – namely yellow, green, and red. The different colors and patterns that butterflies can see are invisible to the human eye. This is because their eyes are better at picking up fast-moving objects and they can distinguish ultraviolet and polarised light, which the human eye cannot
You may think you have lots of butterflies in your garden, but that is only the tip of the iceberg. There are more than 24,000 separate species of butterflies in the world, and they live on every continent except Antarctica.
Butterflies lead relatively short lives, but the lifespan varies enormously from species to species. Some species of butterfly live for only about a week, while other species enjoy a full year of life as an adult insect.
Butterflies are insects, so they have six legs. More specifically, they have three pairs of legs. Each leg ends in a tiny foot, complete with a claw that helps them stand on flowers while they dine on their nectar.
A butterfly can use its wing as a sort of solar panel. Butterflies often bask in the sunshine with their wings fully extended, soaking up the rays and warming their bodies. This is important, since butterflies cannot take to the air until their body temperatures reach at least 30 degrees Celsius.
Butterflies eat no solid food. Butterflies enjoy an all-liquid diet, mostly nectar from the flowers on which they feed. Their uniquely adapted mouth parts are perfectly designed to take in liquid, but they cannot chew or eat solid food.
Keep these fascinating facts in mind the next time you see a butterfly flitting through your garden or landing in your front yard. Butterflies are among the most beautiful of all insects, and with thousands of different species you could spend a lifetime studying them and learning everything about their unique lives.
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