Thursday, March 29, 2012

Today's Trivia - Butterflies

This week’s useless but interesting information is all about one of the few insects that I am truly fond of: butterflies.

- There are about 20,000 species of butterflies.

- More than 750 species of butterflies live in the United States and Canada.

- There are 292 species of butterflies in Canada. Most of which are found in British Columbia (176) and the fewest on Prince Edward Island (42). In Ontario, there are 142 species.

- Some butterflies, such as the Northern Pearly Eye, will fly at night.

- Butterflies are the second largest group of pollinators -- next to bees.

- All butterflies metamorphose from eggs to caterpillars, and then harden into chrysalis for the pupal stage. They then emerge as beautiful winged adults that we admire. In the summer the entire process takes from 5 to 10 weeks.

- Monarchs have been known to migrate over 3000km. One Monarch tagged at Presqu'ile in southern Ontario was recovered in Mexico and is on record as being the longest insect migration.

- The larvae of some of the Blues, Coppers and Hairstreak butterflies produce a sugary excretion that is consumed by ants that in turn protect the larvae from predators.

- Butterflies taste with their feet.

- The Monarch's Mexican wintering site was only discovered in 1975.

- The ancient Greeks called butterflies 'Psyche' which also means 'soul.' Many cultures feel that when we die our souls go to heaven as butterflies. In Russia they're called 'babochka' or 'little soul'.

- The Mourning Cloak and Compton Tortoiseshell are Canada's longest lived butterflies. They can last up to 11 months.

- Monarchs can fly 1000km without stopping.

- The Giant Swallowtail is the largest butterfly found in Canada. Its wingspan can reach up to 5".

- The largest threat to butterflies is loss of habitat.

- Since butterflies are cold blooded it is necessary for them to warm up their flight muscles. This is done by basking in the sun in order to absorb heat.

- Butterflies can attain a flight speed of up to 50 kph.

- The major cause of death to the Cabbage White larvae is rain, which knocks them off their plants where they drown or are severely injured.

- Eastern Tailed Blue, Marine Blue, Bog Elfin and the Small Checkered Skipper all share top honours for Canada's smallest butterflies at a wing span of 16mm. Worldwide the smallest are the Pygmy butterflies at 11mm.

- The Mourning Cloak has been known to play dead in order to escape predators.

- Butterflies smell with their antennae.

- The Painted Lady is the most widespread butterfly species in the world. It's found on all continents except South American and Antarctica.

- When it rains, butterflies find shelter in crevasses, in dense undergrowth and tree cavities.

- The Spring Azure is one of the shortest lived butterflies; it lasts only a couple of days.

- Over-wintering species of larvae avoid freezing by producing glycerol, a kind of antifreeze.

- Male Monarchs never make the return journey the following spring.

- Butterflies breath through openings in their abdomen called "spiracles".

- Butterflies are divided into two main groups called skippers (hesperioidea) and true butterflies (papilionoidea).

- There are some species of butterflies like the Red Admiral that prefer feeding on rotting fruit and animal dung.

- Caterpillars do not have bones, they have over 1,000 muscles in which they use to move from place to place, and they can move very quickly.

- Butterflies can see ultraviolet light (light invisible to the human eye) which makes the markings on flowers very vivid to them and guides them to the nectar tubes.

- Butterflies have strong muscles in their thorax which force their wings up and down on a fulcrum basis. They actually go in a slanted figure 8 motion that propels them forward through the air in the same principle as an airplane.

- Butterflies typically lay their eggs in late spring and hatch 3-6 days after they are laid. It takes 3-4 weeks for a caterpillar to pupate and 9-14 days to emerge as an adult.

- Most butterflies prefer flowers that are pink, red, purple, or yellow and that are open all day. - Butterflies generally fly only during the day, at night they sleep between blades of grass or find the underside of a leaf.

- Female butterflies are usually bigger and live longer than males.

- When it is cloudy or night, the adult butterfly rests by hanging upside down from leaves or twigs. - Butterfly wings are covered with tiny scales, each a single color. These colors are produced by pigments. The iridenscence of some butterflies results from a reflective microstructure on the scale's surface.

- The Queen Alexandra’s birdwing from the island of New Guinea is the largest butterfly; it can have a wingspan of 11 inches!

- Most butterflies make no sound, but some in Florida and Texas make a loud clicking sound with their wings.

- Butterflies can’t hear, but they can feel vibrations.

- The veins on a butterfly’s wing work like supporting bars in a kite.

- Butterfly wings get their color from tiny scales. Their wings have 125,000 scales per square inch. Compare that to a human head, which has only about 100 hairs per square inch.

- It is a popular belief that butterflies have very short life spans. However, butterflies in their adult stage can live from a week to nearly a year depending on the species.

- Many species of butterflies have long larval life stages while others can remain dormant in their pupal or egg stages and thereby survive winters.

- Butterflies may have one or more broods per year. The number of generations per year varies from temperate to tropical regions with tropical regions showing a trend towards multivoltinism.

- Butterfly wings often are brightly colored on top to attract mates or warn predators to stay away. The wing bottoms may be drab for camouflage.

- Adult butterflies do not eat — they only drink! They sip liquids from flowers, juice from rotten fruit, and may even drink sweat and liquid animal waste. When a butterfly’s feet come in contact with a sweet liquid, its feeding tube unfolds.

- Butterflies like sunny areas that are sheltered from the wind. They are unlikely to fly on cool, overcast days.


  1. When I was little, I remember hearing that butterflies could dodge raindrops. From what I can tell, it appears to be a rumor.