The amazing butterfly. There are so many butterfly facts, it is hard to know where to begin. But here we go.
Out of the 20,000 species of butterflies in the world, only 750 live in North America. And since butterflies can’t fly when temperatures drop below 55F degrees, they don’t live in places like Antarctica where it stays cold year round.
So what happens when it gets really cold? Well, some butterflies like the monarch migrate to warmer places such as Mexico for the winter. Other butterflies hibernate in leaves while some perish if it gets too cold. One lucky monarch, back in 2012, was lucky enough to be transported from New York to San Antonio on Southwest Airlines by a passionate butterfly advocate. Read the amazing story here.
What Is Metamorphosis?
So what caterpillars don’t turn into butterflies? The ones that turn into moths which is a whole different topic. But every butterfly caterpillar goes through several stages, called metamorphosis, in becoming a butterfly. Wow, this feels confusing!
Let’s start at the beginning. A female butterfly mates with a male and lays her eggs on a plant.
And what are some host plants for specific butterflies? The zebra swallowtail will only lay its eggs on a pawpaw tree while the spicebush swallowtail needs either a spicebush or sassafrass plant on which to lay its eggs.
Other Cool Butterfly Facts
They taste with their feet, all 6 of them (you normally only see 4 legs since the front 2 are curled up under the butterfly).
The longest flight recorded by a butterfly is 265 miles, helped most likely by strong winds.
A group of butterflies is a flutter and a group congregating in a muddy place is called puddling.
How many lenses does a butterfly have in each eye? 6,000! Ok, so who counted them and how?
Butterflies do not like to fly at night as they might be eaten by a bat or predator bird. Sounds like a good strategy.
A person that studies butterflies is a called a lepidopterist. Try pronouncing that one!
Butterflies As Pollinators
Should You Raise Butterflies To Release Into The Wild?
Disease from the raised butterflies can be spread to the wild population.
The butterflies released can die quickly from lack of the right nectar sources or adverse weather conditions.
It confuses scientific studies of butterfly migrations and can confuse wild butterflies as they fly by.
Butterflies are now being poached from the wild for profit.
Butterflies raised in California don’t know how to migrate when released in say, North Carolina.
It is illegal to release any wildlife into the wild in some states.
Read more here.
Butterflies Are In Trouble. How Can You Help?
Plant native flowering plants including bushes, wildflowers, grasses & trees.
For monarchs, plant native milkweed which is the only plant on which a monarch will lay its eggs.
Avoid the use of pesticides in your garden or yard as they can kill both caterpillars & butterflies.
Provide water and cover along with nectar.
Become a citizen scientist and report your sightings of butterflies. It is loads of fun and very rewarding. We signed up for Journey North to report our monarch butterfly sightings. It is easy & free & helps scientists learn more about their behavior.