Interesting and Fun Facts About Butterflies
Butterflies are one of nature’s most beautiful insects and come in a range of shapes, sizes and colours. Below is a list of interesting facts about butterflies that you may not be aware of.
- Butterflies taste with their feet.
That’s right, their feet. A butterfly has receptors on its feet which help it to locate plants and food. Female butterflies also use these receptors to identify suitable plants to lay their eggs on. Because butterflies only feed on liquid, which is usually nectar, and because they can’t chew solid food, they have a proboscis, which is like a drinking straw curled up underneath their chin, which elongates when they drink.
- Butterfly wings are made up of scales.
The base of a butterfly’s wings is formed by extremely thin layers of chitin, a protein that also makes up the butterfly’s exoskeleton. Because the layers are so thin, they are transparent. The chitin is then covered by tiny scales. The scales have pigments in them that create black and brown tones, but the bright colours seen on butterfly wings is a result of the structure of the scales. The scales scatter and reflect the light in the form of different colours, producing the beautifully coloured wings we have come to associate with butterflies. The scales cling loosely to the wings and brush off the butterfly easily without causing any harm to the insect.
- Butterflies are short-sighted.
A butterfly’s eyesight is relatively good within 10-12 feet, or 3-3.5 metres, but anything beyond that and their vision becomes weak and blurry. Butterflies use their eyesight to locate possible mates and to find flowers to feed from. Butterflies can see a selection of colours, mainly red, yellow and green, but they can also see a range of ultraviolet colours that are invisible to humans. These ultraviolet colours are displayed on flowers that are used to attract butterflies and bees to encourage pollination. Furthermore, the butterflies themselves have ultraviolet markings on their wings as a form of identification to other butterflies and recognition of potential mates.
- Butterflies can’t fly if they are cold.
The ideal body temperature for a butterfly to fly is 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit). Because they are cold-blooded, butterflies cannot control or regulate their own body temperature, which means that the surrounding air temperature plays a huge part in their ability to fly. If the air temperature falls below 13 degrees Celsius (55 degrees Fahrenheit), butterflies are unable to fly or move, and are left wide open to attacks from predators. When temperatures reach over 38 degrees Celsius (100 degrees Fahrenheit), a butterfly will overheat and struggle to fly, causing them to seek out cooler air in the shade.
- A new butterfly cannot fly.
When a butterfly is developing in the cocoon, it has its wings wrapped around its body. When it does break though the cocoon shell and enters the world, its wings are small and shrivelled. To expand and enlarge the wings, the butterfly has to immediately pump body fluid through the wings. The butterfly then has to wait and rest for a few hours so its body and wings can dry and harden before it can fly.