Beautiful Butterflies: Fascinating Facts, and Great Pics
There are nearly 24,000 different species of butterflies. Most of these species are found in Central and South America, as well as the Amazon basin, due to the butterflies' ability to best survive in warm moist climates. Although the largest and most stunning of these delicate creatures call Asia home.
A butterfly has a very short life expectancy. Some that live in the tropics can live up to a year, whereas some only live a few months, weeks, and even hours. Butterflies are generally fragile creatures; therefore, if an area has an abundance of butterflies, you can assume that the ecosystem is healthy and cared for well.
If butterflies begin to die or disappear, then there might be a change in the environment that is causing an unhealthy ecosystem. The decreasing number of butterflies is dangerous since they are a valuable source of food for many birds and assist in the pollination of flowers as well. Beautiful colors of flowers attract butterflies, which is the primary source of food for most butterflies. By flying from flower to flower, they assist in fertilization due to pollen sticking to one of their six legs and landing on the next flower.
How Do Butterflies Taste?
Probably the most surprising fact about butterflies and their diet is that butterflies do not "eat" anything once they have left the caterpillar stage. Although they do drink nectar and fluids from fruits, while they are still in the caterpillar phase, they will eat plants, leaves, and fruit. Part of why butterflies do not "eat" anything is because they have a unique straw-like structure in their mouth, so there is no chewing, just swallowing. This straw-like structure does not do the tasting. It is their feet that allow them to taste. Most butterflies love the taste of sweet nectar, although there are some that love the taste of rotting food and animal dung. Yes, you can say it. GROSS!
Even the butterflies who do like rotting meat and animal dung are an essential part of our ecosystem. That is why we must be careful using pesticides, herbicides, or any other chemicals that would be harmful to the natural environment.
Save the Butterflies
Some butterflies are becoming so rare that they are almost extinct due to their diminishing habitat. Fortunately, there are some conservation places like Frederick Meijer Gardens in Grand Rapids, Michigan, that supports the healthy living of butterflies in a pleasantly warm environment. From March to April, they hold a butterfly show that allows butterflies who have a short life expectancy to live in their gardens. It is a beautiful show and captures the attention of people of all ages. All these pictures were taken there throughout the years.
I have to admit I cannot stay long with the butterflies because butterflies need to live in hot climates. The rooms are incredibly warm to assist in their survival. If their body temperature falls below 86 degrees, they become unable to fly. As a result, butterflies are most plentiful in the tropics, and you usually do not see them fly at night because that is when they rest. Some are even migratory and will fly to warmer lands during the winter, then come back in the spring when it is warmer.
As everyone knows, butterflies begin as caterpillars, which makes chrysalises, which transforms a caterpillar into a butterfly. In places that assist in the preservation of rare butterflies like Frederick Meijer Gardens, they hire professional caretakers that will bring the chrysalises to the gardens just before they are about to break free. They don't usually bring them to the caterpillar phase.
There is such a wide variety of shapes and sizes for chrysalises. Each blends in with their natural habitat so well that prey is rarely able to spot them in the wild. Chrysalises are often mistaken as cocoons. Silk covers cocoons and has a chrysalis inside. They are created by silk moths.
The exciting thing about caterpillars is they have absolutely no bones but do have over a thousand muscles in their bodies. A caterpillar will grow 27000 times its size from the egg phase to right before they build their cocoon. An adult butterfly does not grow in size as it gets older. The size they come out of the cocoon is the size they will live the rest of their lives. Therefore, all the growing of their wings occurs in the chrysalis.
The wings of a butterfly are completely see-through. Little scale-like structures add color and beauty to the wing. There is at least one butterfly whose wings do not have these scale-like structures and is completely clear, except for the tops of the wing. It is fascinating to watch. Although I have seen this butterfly, I have not been able to capture it on film. The designs camouflage the butterflies.
The Importance of a Butterfly
The survival of a butterfly is a sign that our world around us is healthy. To maintain that healthy atmosphere, we need to take care of nature. Each of these butterflies that I took a picture of was found in one of the preservation systems like that of Frederick Meijer Garden. I encourage you to go to one, it is a rare treat to see so many butterflies in one area.
A National Geographics View of Butterflies
- "10 Super Cool Facts About Butterflies." EcoWatch. June 30, 2016. Accessed February 27, 2018. https://www.ecowatch.com/10-super-cool-facts-about-butterflies-1891180962.html.
- Butterfly Facts for Kids. Accessed February 27, 2018. http://www.scienceforkidsclub.com/butterfly-facts.html.
- Hadley, Debbie. "10 Fascinating Facts About Butterflies." ThoughtCo. Accessed February 27, 2018. https://www.thoughtco.com/fascinating-facts-about-butterflies-1968171.
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© 2010 Angela Michelle Schultz