7 Butterflies characteristics: 23 Facts You Should Know!


Butterflies are attractive flying creatures with big, scaly wings. Let us discuss some of the characteristics of butterflies.

In the animal kingdom, butterfly is the most well-known insect. A pleasant and non-toxic insect which belongs to the group of Lepidoptera.

  1. Butterflies have three body sections- head, thorax and abdomen. Other than this, they have two antennae, complex eyes, and an exoskeleton just like all other insects.
  2. The tiny sensory hairs are present on the butterfly’s body.
  3. Butterflies must have a body temperature of 860 F or above in order to fly.
  4. Some species of butterflies can fly at speeds of up to 30 mph.
  5. Butterflies have the ability to go through a full metamorphosis, life cycle includes four stages – egg, larva, pupa and adult.
  6. Flexible tongue called the proboscis, which resembles like a tube, is used by butterflies to consume food in a liquid form.
  7. Butterflies have huge compound eyes with numerous light-sensitive lenses, both of which have their own refractive systems and which together contributes to the formation of the image.

Let us discuss if butterflies are pollinators, if they are bugs, mammals, invertebrates and many other related questions in this article.

Are butterflies pollinators?

Butterfly are attracted to flowers. Let us see if they are pollinators or not.

Butterflies are pollinators and carries out pollination by travelling from one flower to another in search of nectar. When a butterfly visits a flower to collect nectar, pollen grains stick to several parts of its body, including its legs, wings, thorax and proboscis.

Bees are better pollinators than butterflies. Despite the fact that butterfly’s legs and proboscis are longer and farther from the pollen of the flower than bees, less pollen accumulates on their body parts, making them still very effective pollinators. These pollens transfer through their body parts to another flower where they sit.

Are butterflies bugs ?

People usually use the word bug for any flying insect. Let us find out the link between bugs and butterflies.

Butterflies cannot be considered as bugs as they are insects and belong to the particular order ‘Lepidoptera’. The meaning of the term bug varies depending on the context. Any arthropod (phylum) that lives on land might be referred to as a bug.

An organism belonging to the Hemiptera order are true bugs. With more than 80,000 individual species, the group is incredibly large and diversified. Butterfly species are not included in this category because they are not real bugs, such as shieldbugs.

Are butterflies mammals ?

Mammals are vertebrate animals. Let us see if butterflies are mammals or not.

Butterflies are not mammals. They are insects that are classified in the Lepidoptera taxonomic order. Butterflies are oviparous and lacks mammary glands which is the main characteristic to be classified in the class of mammals.

Are butterflies invertebrates ?

Invertebrates are usually devoid of notochord. Let us explore if butterflies are invertebrates.

Butterflies are true invertebrates as they are devoid of backbone. Insects including butterfly have six legs and two antennae. An invertebrate can be considered as insect if it has wings. Butterflies, beetles, bees, flies are such examples.

Are butterflies symmetrical ?

Each organism have different types of symmetry. Let us find out which symmetry does butterfly possess.

Butterflies show symmetry and are excellent examples of insects that exhibit bilateral symmetry. The patterns on their wings are identical on both sides because of a single line of symmetry running down the centre of their bodies.

Are butterflies and moths related ?

Butterflies and moths are both insects. Let us see if they are related or not.

Moths and butterflies are related as they are members of the order Lepidoptera, yet there are significant anatomical and behavioural variations between the two insect species.

Moths usually contains thick and dense feathery antenna while butterflies have thin and ling antenna. Butterflies have vibrant colours, whilst moths are drab. While resting moths flatten their wings horizontally and butterflies fold their wings vertically.  

Are butterflies attracted to light ?

Butterflies are mostly diurnal. Let us see if they are attracted to light or not.

Butterflies are undoubtedly drawn towards light, and they naturally prefer to fly in that direction. Since, light is a key indication for attracting insects to heat sources, the warmth felt when drawing near the light may also aid in controlling body temperature.

Are butterflies attracted to bright colors ?

Butterflies like to wander on different colored flowers. Let us find out which colors attract their attention.

Butterflies are usually attracted towards bright and vibrant colored flowers because bright flowers contains high concentration of nectar. Adult butterflies are attracted towards red, yellow, orange and purple flowers having short flower tubes.

Butterfly sitting on a red bright flower. Image credit: Wikipedia

Are butterflies blind?

All insects have eyes. Let us explore if butterflies are blind or not.

Butterflies are not blind. They possess two types of eye: one is 12000 compound eyes and other is single-chambered eye. The butterfly’s compound eyes are what give them all-around vision while single-chambered eye helps to focus on individual objects.

Their extensive visual range is due to the four classes of receptors they possess. Additionally, these eyes are employed to detect polarised light and ultraviolet color.

Are butterflies color blind ?

Butterflies are attracted towards colors. Let us see if they are color blind or not.

Butterflies are not color blind, they can see wide range of colors like human does. Butterflies look for flowers using their color vision. For color vision in butterflies, which includes UV wavelengths, four receptor classes are required.

Retina of butterflies often include six or more photoreceptor classes with different spectrum sensitivities, in contrast to human trichromatic retinas (blue, green, and red cones; plus rods). Three kinds of photoreceptors are most common among insect species. Despite having only three cones, human can still recognize millions of color.

Are butterflies birds ?

Butterflies have also wings like birds. Let us see if they can be classified under birds.

Butterflies are not birds as they lack internal skeletons, talons, feathers, or beaks. Eventhough birds and butterflies have wings, bird wings have bony skeleton and feathers which lacks in butterflies as they have scales in their wings.

Birds have one pair of wing while insects usually contains two pair of wings. Birds and butterflies may have common ancestors but scientifically they cannot be birds.

Are butterflies cold-blooded ?

All invertebrates are coldblooded including insects. Let us explore, how butterflies regulate their body temperature.

Butterflies are poikilotherms or cold-blooded creatures. They cannot regulate their own body temperature like warm-blooded animal does. Their body temperature fluctuates according to the outside temperature.

They must warm up their muscles in order to continue flying if they become too cold and lose the ability to fly.

Are butterflies deaf ?

It is quite impossible for small insects to have ears but still there are some facts about it. Let us explore if butterflies can hear or they are deaf.

Butterflies are believed to be deaf, as this has long been presumed. The well-known butterfly species known as Morpho has ears that can hear the sounds created by birds as they fly. New research suggests that butterflies have microscopic ears present on their wings.

Morpho didius, museum specimen (Male). Image Credit: Wikipedia

Using microscopic ears present on their wings, they can discriminate between high and low pitch sounds, presumably as a means of listening in on surrounding birds. Many Nymphalidae butterflies have ears, and using neuroanatomical and neurophysiological techniques, researchers have verified hearing in several species.

Are butterflies endangered ?

The population of butterflies are getting reduced. Let us find out if butterflies are endangered or not.

Butterflies are not completely endangered but they are slowly endangering. According to recent data of Zoological Survey of India, there are 1,318 different species of butterflies in India, of which 35 are considered critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Female Monarch Butterfly. Image Credit: Wikipedia

The migratory monarch butterfly, known for its vivid orange coloring and remarkable annual migration, is currently listed by the IUCN as being endangered. Three butterfly species are listed as “least concern” species, and 43 butterfly species in India are classified as endangered by the IUCN.

Are butterflies eukaryotic ?

All organisms that can be seen from eyes are multicellular. Let us discover from what kind of cells butterflies are made from and if they are eukaryotes.

All butterflies are eukaryotes as they are multicellular insects and all multicellular organisms are made up of eukaryotic cells. A nucleus and numerous additional organelles are present in eukaryotic cells. Existing cells proliferate and divide to create new ones.

Are butterflies flies ?

Both butterflies and flies have some similarities. Let us see if butterflies can be categorized as flies.

Butterflies are not flies even though they both have many similarities like pair of wings, compound eyes and complete cycle of metamorphosis. Butterflies belong to lepidoptera order while flies are from diptera order.

Are butterflies female or male?

Every organisms have reproductive system. Let us explore whether butterflies are male or female.

Butterflies can be either male or female, just like humans. In order to fertilise the female’s eggs, they mate by touching the tips of their abdomens together. The female then deposits her eggs on the ground or on vegetation.

Male butterflies compete with one another for the attention of female butterflies since most female butterflies pick the males they want to mate with.

Are butterflies fast ?

Butterflies have two pair of wings. Let us explore if they are fast or not.

Butterflies are not usually fast but there are some species of butterflies which are actually very fast. The Skippers species of butterflies have some of nature’s quickest reflexes and can fly up to 37 miles per hour.

Pelopidas sp. (Skipper). Image Credit: Wikipedia

 

Are butterflies keystone species ?

Butterflies are part of environment and ecosystem. Let us find out if they contribute as keystone species.

Butterflies cannot be considered as keystone species because there are so many other insects which helps in pollination and maintaining the entire food web. Somehow, butterflies can be important to the environment and humans, but for that reason they cannot be regarded as keystone species.

Are butterflies parasites?

Parasites are host derived organisms. Let us see if butterflies are parasites or not.

Butterflies are not parasites. They are insects which usually depends on the flower and plants to get their nutrition. In order to be a parasite, one should have to be unicellular and live on or inside of a host organism, feeding off the host in order to survive.

Are butterflies smart ?

Insects are quite smart in capturing their prey. Let us see if butterflies are smart or not.

Butterflies are smart as they have the capacity to learn and can identify certain indications that point to the existence of nectar. They are usually thought of being completely spontaneous. In reality, it uses its knowledge to increase the effectiveness of food collecting.

Are butterflies territorial ?

Butterflies have to move from one place to another in search of nectar. Let us discuss if they are territorial or not.

Butterflies are territorial in nature. When a resident was removed from a territory, generally male butterflies are more rapid to take over the area and are more likely to become dominant.

Particularly butterflies may initially appear to have minimal physical aggressive potential. Physical aggression in resource defence is frequently less over in insects than it is in birds and mammals, which may explain why territorial behaviour in insects is quite slow.

Conclusion

To wrap up this post, we conclude that butterflies are insects which play crucial role in maintaining environmental balance by being part of food web. They are cold-blooded, having normal and compound eyes and also have an ability to hear sounds. They are also good pollinators. Most of the species are endangered. Butterflies have number of characteristics and facts of which many are discussed above in the post.

Saif Ali

Hi, I am Saif Ali. I obtained my Master's degree in Microbiology and have one year of research experience in water microbiology from  National Institute of Hydrology, Roorkee. Antibiotic resistant microorganisms and soil bacteria, particularly PGPR, are my areas of interest and expertise. Currently, I'm focused on developing antibiotic alternatives. I'm always trying to discover new things from my surroundings.  My goal is to provide readers with easy-to-understand microbiology articles. If you have a bug, treat it with caution and avoid using antibiotics to combat SUPERBUGS. Let's connect via LinkedIn:http://linkedin.com/in/saif-ali-80b5098b

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