Since butterflies are one of nature’s most fascinating animals, the butterfly facts are expectedly just as intriguing. These multi-colored animals are many people’s favorite — and for a reason. 

After all, they are beautiful animals with many unique features, so there is a lot to love. 

So, if you’re interested in some of those reasons, continue reading to find out some fascinating facts about butterflies.

Top Ten Amazing Butterfly Facts

Facts About Butterflies to Get You Started

Butterflies have unusual body features, an intriguing name, and an even more interesting common name. Read on to find out some essential information about them.

1. Why are butterflies called butterflies?

(Hartford Courant)

The name butterfly comes from the words butter and fly. The “fly” part of the name comes from the fact that it can fly. But the reasoning behind the “butter” in the name is not so clear. There are three possible versions. 

  • The butter-like color of many butterflies’ wings 
  • Old beliefs that butterflies steal butter
  • The color of butterflies’ excrement

2. What is a group of butterflies called?

(Reference, Lisa’s Writopia) 

The official name for a group of butterflies is a kaleidoscope. The name comes from the colors and the changing pattern of a butterfly group, resembling a kaleidoscope.

Other names for a group of butterflies are flutter, swarm, rabble, flight, and wing.

3. How many legs do butterflies have?

(ThoughtCo)

Like most other insects, butterflies have six legs in total. What’s interesting about butterfly legs is that they have different functions.

  • The first pair has receptors that help butterflies taste and smell.
  • The second pair also has receptors that help them find food, locate good places for laying eggs, and walk. 
  • The third pair is reserved for walking only. 

4. How many eyes do butterflies have?

(Ballachi)

Butterflies have two simple and two compound eyes. The black dot you can see in their eyeballs is the simple eye, and it is surrounded by the compound eye, which consists of over 12,000 mini eyes. 

Additionally, butterflies have extraordinary vision and can use UV light to sense predators, food, and potential mating partners. 

5. How many wings do butterflies have?

(Australian Butterfly Sanctuary)

Even though it’s a common belief that butterflies have two wings, they actually have four wings. Their two sets of wings are separated into two forewings and two hindwings.

6. How long do butterflies live?

(The Butterfly Site)

The average lifetime of butterflies is only one month. But depending on the butterfly type, size, and climate, their lifespan can be longer or shorter. The life span of a butterfly also depends on natural predators. 

Some butterflies live for only one week, while others can live for as long as nine months.

Interesting Facts About Butterflies

Considering the above-listed facts, you’d probably agree that butterflies are one of the most exciting animals out there. So, let’s see some more fascinating facts about them that you probably didn’t know.

7. An interesting fact about butterfly history is that they evolved from a moth-like ancestor. 

(Byjus, ScienceDaily)

A scientific discovery shows that butterflies evolved from an ancestor very similar to moths. 

Scientifically, both moths and butterflies belong to the Lepidoptera order. However, they belong to separate sub-orders. And a scientific name for a butterfly sub-order is Rhopalocera.

Butterflies and moths generally have many similarities — butterflies look like multi-colored moths. So, this discovery shouldn’t come as a big surprise.

8. Butterfly facts show that butterflies cannot fly if their body temperature is under 86 degrees Fahrenheit. 

(Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden)

Being cold-blooded, butterflies cannot regulate the heat of their bodies. However, they need heat (energy) to fly. More precisely, they need at least 86 degrees Fahrenheit.

This is why they like hot places where they can absorb the heat through their wings. They can also warm their bodies by shivering. 

9. One of the fun facts about butterflies is that they have an external skeleton.

(Sciencing)

While most animals have soft tissue around their skeletons, insects are different. Like most insects, butterflies have an exoskeleton, or external skeleton.

Their soft flesh is inside, while a skeleton protects it from outside. The skeleton goes over their head, thorax (upper body), abdomen, and wings. The skeleton on the wings is thinner and takes the form of flakes.    

10. According to butterfly eggs facts, butterflies lay up to 100 eggs at once. 

(Mom, Joyful Butterfly)

If you have ever wondered — do butterflies lay eggs? — now you know that yes, they do. 

A female butterfly can lay 1–100 eggs at once, and she can do so for days. The mother butterfly dies after laying all of her eggs. The father dies 6–8 weeks after mating.

11. There are four stages of butterfly metamorphosis, facts about butterflieslife cycle reveal.

(Mom, Joyful Butterfly)

Metamorphosis is a process of transformation, and in butterflies, there are 4 main stages after they lay the eggs. 

  1. Egg Stage – When the butterfly lays the eggs on plants. The duration of the egg stage depends greatly on the species of butterflies but usually lasts around 3-7 days.
  2. Larva or Caterpillar Stage – Starts when the egg hatches and a caterpillar (or larva) appears. This stage lasts for 2–5 weeks, where the caterpillar’s job is to eat and grow.
  3. Pupa (or chrysalis) Stage – The caterpillar starts the transformation into an adult butterfly by spinning a string of silk around its body, creating a pupa. This stage lasts anywhere from a few weeks to a few months, depending on the species.
  4. Adult Butterfly Stage – The butterfly emerges from the pupa with the sole goal of mating and laying eggs to start the cycle again. This stage lasts only one or two weeks.

From the egg to the adult butterfly, a month usually passes. 

(Healthline)

Lepidopterophobia is a phobia, or excessive fear, of butterflies and moths. It is a sub-type of Zoophobia — an extreme fear of animals, which is quite a common phobia

Lepidopterophobia is not as common, but it still exists. 

Species-Based Butterfly Facts

How many species of butterflies are there? There are 17,500 species of butterflies worldwide and 750 in the US. 

Each of these species has some specific features that lead to some exciting facts. Read more to find out facts about some of the many different types of butterflies.

13. According to black swallowtail butterfly facts, this butterfly species has two generations each year. 

(New Hampshire’s PBS Station, Butterflies at Home)

Rare for a butterfly species, black swallowtails have two generations annually. One generation comes between April and early June, while the other generation appears in the late summer. 

To be able to have two generations, how long do swallowtail butterflies have to live? An adult black swallowtail butterfly lives from 6 to 14 days. And the whole process of metamorphosis takes up to two months for the second generation. 

The eggs from the second generation survive winter and hatch in the spring. So, the first generation comes from eggs of the previous year’s second generation.

14. One of the intriguing painted lady butterfly facts is that the caterpillar creates a silk tent.

(Owlcation)

The painted lady butterfly is specific because the caterpillar creates a silk tent. This silk tent is used as a way of protection. Moreover, the painted lady caterpillar doesn’t move as much and is likely to spend its whole existence inside this protective structure. 

15. Tiger swallowtail butterfly facts show that they are mimicry masters.

(US Forest Service)

Tiger swallowtail butterflies are seemingly regular beautiful butterflies, but they are great imitators. They have highly developed mimicry, or imitation, that helps them survive.

In the earlier phase, they imitate bird droppings to avoid being eaten. Later, when they are in danger, older tiger swallowtail caterpillars know how to mimic the look of a snake’s head to scare off predators.

Another interesting fact about this butterfly is that it also produces acid if touched. This foul-smelling substance is rubbed onto the predator and imitates snake poison. 

16. The blue morpho butterfly fun facts reveal that blue morphos are actually not blue at all!

(KQED, University of Adelaide)

Even though the blue morpho butterflies look like they cannot be bluer, their color is not actually blue. 

The blue morpho butterfly facts show that scales on their wings reflect the light in a specific way. These scales make their wings seem blue, although they are not. 

Blue is a color that is generally ‘faked’ by plants and animals in nature. Interestingly, the only true blue pigment is produced by another butterfly type — the Nessaea butterflies.

17. Red admiral butterflies use nettle as their primary host plant, as reported by red admiral butterfly facts.

(US Forest Service)

Although most butterflies choose flowers to host their eggs, red admiral butterflies are different. They lay their eggs on the nettle. 

This may be the reason why the red admiral butterflies are so common, as they can be found anywhere where there is nettle. 

18. The glasswing’s wings may inspire camera lens improvement as per glasswing butterfly facts

(Science News)

The glasswing butterfly group is famous because they are the only transparent butterflies — and one of the rare transparent creatures. 

The transparent parts of their wings mainly serve as protection from predators. They are filled with scales of different densities and coated in a waxy substance that helps them reduce the glare.

Scientists think that this waxy coating can help researchers and inventors create new anti-glare coatings for camera lenses. 

19. Viceroy butterfly facts show that it has a mimetic relationship with the monarch butterfly. 

(University of Florida)

Viceroy and monarch butterflies have a lot in common, which scientists say is on purpose. They share the same pattern and colors and are both poisonous. Their shared look helps them avoid predators because once they try one of them, they avoid them all. 

Viceroy is smaller than a monarch butterfly, and it doesn’t migrate. Almost everything else about them is similar.

Monarch Butterfly Facts

Monarch butterflies are, without a doubt, the most popular butterfly species. The monarch butterfly is what most people think of when they imagine a butterfly. 

They are so popular that the monarch butterfly migration attracts many viewers each year. And it’s a sight to behold. 

So, if you are interested to learn some interesting facts about monarch butterflies, read on.

20. Monarch butterfly facts reveal that milkweed is their primary source of food.

(The National Wildlife Foundation)

When monarchs are still in the caterpillar form, they feed on milkweed leaves. The toxins from this plant are stored in the body and persist until adulthood, making monarch butterflies poisonous. 

But, what do monarch butterflies eat as adults? When they are adults, they suck the nectar from various flowers, including milkweed.

21. Facts about butterfly habitats show that monarch butterflies live on three continents. 

(The Monarch Joint Venture, National geography)

The monarch butterfly has a geographic range from North America to Europe and Australia.

Most monarchs live in North America, where they originated. Still, some of them also live in Spain, Portugal, and Eastern Australia.

Another significant population used to live in South America, but they are not present there anymore.

22. There are four generations of monarch butterflies each year.

(City of Irving)

Monarch butterflies are one of the butterflies with the most generations in one year. Each year, four generations go through the monarch butterfly life cycle from egg, through caterpillar and pupa, to adult butterfly.

23. Monarch butterfly life span can be up to nine months.

(Journey North)

How long do monarch butterflies live for? — is not an easy question to answer. 

Scientists are unsure how long monarch butterflies live, but the suspected life span is from 2 to 6 weeks for most monarchs.

However, the fourth generation of monarch butterflies migrates long distances and can live up to nine months.

24. Unlike other butterflies, the monarch butterfly type of migration involves a two-way journey.

(US Forest Service)

Butterflies usually don’t migrate in both directions. Monarch butterfly migration facts show that the monarchs are the only type of butterflies that go in both directions.

Why do monarch butterflies migrate at all and especially in two directions? Simply to stay alive. Monarch butterflies migrate to a warmer place to overcome the long winter and come back to reproduce. 

25. The eastern monarch butterfly migration path goes from the eastern US to Mexico.

(Monarch Joint Venture)

Monarch butterflies migrate twice a year and pass two different paths, depending on their starting point. Monarchs from the eastern US migrate to Mexico in the fall and go back home in the spring.  

For the western monarch butterfly, migration to California is closer, and the conditions are similar to Mexico. They go to California in the fall and come back in spring.

If you are interested in seeing the migration, a live monarch butterfly migration map and tracking information may come in handy.

26. Monarch butterfly distance traveled can be as long as 3,000 miles!

(Monarch Joint Venture)

Monarch butterflies are the most famous migratory butterfly species.

The ending/starting points (depending on the season) of North American monarch butterfly migration are Mexico or California (eastern vs. western butterflies). 

Western US monarchs do not travel extremely long distances, as they only migrate to California.

Eastern monarchs, on the other hand, migrate to Mexico. To get to or from Mexico, they have to fly an impressive 3,000 miles. 

27. Monarch butterflies are slowly disappearing.

(Effie Yeaw Sacramento Nature Center)

Are monarch butterflies endangered? Unfortunately, yes, they are. And they are not alone. Statistics show that over 20 butterfly and moth species in the US are endangered. If nothing is done, monarch butterflies are likely to disappear. 

Why are monarch butterflies endangered? One of the causes is deforestation since 80% of the tropical rainforests are destroyed for agriculture. Other reasons include milkweed losses and rapid urban development. 

But the biggest reason for the disappearance of monarch butterflies is global warming, which is causing extreme weather events.

FAQ 

How do butterflies eat?

Butterflies eat by sucking nectar from flowers. They do this with their tongues, which function similar to a straw.

Butterfly larvae or caterpillars feed by eating plant leaves. Moreover, not all butterfly species prefer the same plants. 

(North American Butterfly Association)

How do butterflies mate?

Butterflies mate by joining the tips of their abdomens. A male butterfly passes the sperm packet into the female, where the eggs get fertilized.

One of the weird and fun facts about butterflies‘ mating rituals is that they never look at each other when mating. They land down, face away from each other, and start the ritual.

(Mom)

How high do butterflies fly?

The highest a butterfly has been observed at is 20,000 feet. But, not all butterflies can reach that height, and most of the time, they do not need to.

(Smithsonian)

Where do butterflies live?

Butterflies are said to live everywhere but in Antarctica, as it’s too cold. There is at least one species of butterflies everywhere around the world. 

(San Diego Zoo)

Where do butterflies sleep?

Butterflies don’t actually sleep. They enter an inactive state where they relax but do not sleep as such. 

They relax by hanging down from the leaves to hide from the predators — or in the open if they have warning colors.

(Australian Butterfly Sanctuary)

Conclusion

It’s easy to see why butterflies are a universal favorite — of course, except for people with a phobia. 

They have metamorphosis ability, can fly long distances, are great imitators, and are extremely beautiful. 

Now that you know all these butterfly facts, you also know it’s almost impossible not to admire them. 

Sources

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