What are butterflies?
The scientific classification of butterflies is as follows:
- Common name: Butterfly
- Class: Insecta
- Order: Lepidoptera
The life-cycle of butterflies goes through four main stages:
The adult butterflies mate and the female lays eggs on the caterpillars food plant. Once the eggs hatch, the caterpillars emerge and gorge themselves on leaves, growing bigger and bigger, until they are ready to pupate and prepare for their next stage. As they grow bigger, they must molt or shed their skins (called an instar). The, once they are mature enough, they have cocoon themselves in their chrysalis, they undergo an amazing transformation – they turn from wriggly caterpillars into beautiful, winged butterflies.
Most butterflies only live for between 2 weeks to a few months in their butterfly form. But, their whole life-cycle, from caterpillar to adult butterfly, can take up to a year.
During the winter, some butterflies hibernate in their caterpillar form, while others migrate to warmer climates. This is because, much like birds, butterflies migrate mainly in search of food and also because, being cold-blooded creatures, they cannot survive in cold temperatures.
At a glance, butterflies are made up of a central body (usually slender), including their head, thorax and abdomen; four wings, including two fore-wings and two hind-wings; six legs; and two antennae (often clubbed).
There are six butterfly families:
- Swallowtails (Papilionidae)
- Brush-foots (Nymphalidae)
- Whites and sulphurs (Pieridae)
- Gossamer wings (Lycaenidae)
- Metalmarks (Riodinidae)
- Skippers (Hesperiidae)