ABOUT THE BUTTERFLY
Welcome to some facts about a creature I love to photograph whenever I can.
- The word butterfly was first used to describe a butter coloured insect- the brimstone butterfly. ‘Butterfly’ eventually came to include all the species and the brimstone acquired its present name which relates to the colour of sulphur.
- A butterfly has a small body, made of three parts – the head, thorax and abdomen. Butterflies have two large eyes, which are made of many, many small parts. These are called ‘compound eyes’.
- They have two antennae on top of their heads, which they use to feel, smell and to hear. A butterfly’s mouth is a long tube, through which it sucks the sweet nectar from flowers. When the butterfly does not want to eat, it rolls the tube up!
- Butterflies have three pairs of legs. Their feet have little claws to help them stand on flowers. Some butterflies, like the peacock, only use four of their legs, carrying the two front legs against their bodies.
- The wings of the butterfly are made of hard tubes covered with thin tissue. The wings are covered with scales, which are like a fine dust.
- Butterflies can only feed or fly when their bodies are warmed to at least 30°C, and they have to gain this from the sunshine using their wings. Butterflies are often seen basking with their wings open wide, as they gain heat. They adjust the area exposed to the sun by overlapping their wings or angling them towards the sunshine. The veins located in the wings then carry the heat to the body. Colour helps the butterfly with their temperature control. Dark colours absorb more heat, than light colours. Some butterflies such as the Blues have a shiny underside to their wing, which can help them reflect heat.
- Some butterflies can fly 50km/h or faster. Slow flying butterflies probably fly about 10km/h.
- The scales form bright patterns, sometimes with a hidden ultraviolet pattern to attract mates. The bright colours also act as a deterrent to predators eating them. The scales may also form patterns that help the butterflies to blend into their background to escape predators.
- During fall migration migrating Monarchs have been seen flying by tall buildings such as the Empire State Building hundreds of metres high. Butterflies are picked up by storm fronts and moved 100’s of km, probably at altitudes of thousands of metres.
Clancy's comment: Amazing colours, eh?