The butterfly is one of the most beautiful insects on the planet, and it is fitting that February has come to be known as National Butterfly Month. Closely related to moths, there are more than 28,000 species of the insect worldwide, varying in size, shape, and color. Their beauty and prevalence have made them a fixture in culture and folklore. If you’re like me, there is nothing more fun than to dress-up your dog for any occasion. National Butterfly Month is just another reason to make your dog flutter around the house and yard in his new butterfly outfit. Now, are you ready for some fun facts about butterflies?
Butterflies Are Descended from Moths
Both are members of the same group, Lepidoptera, even though moths came first and are more prevalent. With the two having similar looks, it is often hard to tell the difference between a butterfly and a moth. Typically, butterflies are colored, fly during the day and have golf club-shaped antennae while moths are more greyscale, usually nocturnal and have pipe-cleaner-like antennae.
The Name ‘Butterfly’ Came from Across the Pond
Anglo-Saxons used the name “butterfloege” to describe the creature’s looks. In England, the most common butterfly was the yellow brimstone, whose color resembles butter. The name came over with the first settlers and stuck. There is also a tale wherein the colonies, they believed that witches would turn into winged creatures and steal butter.
The Rarest Is the Queen Alexandra’s Birdwing
Queen Alexandra’s Birdwing is the biggest butterfly in the world, with a wingspan up to 1 ft (30 cm) wide. This rare, tropical butterfly is from a lowland coastal rainforest in New Guinea. This huge butterfly is on the US Endangered Species List. Its rainforest habitat is being reduced as oil palm plantations are created.This enormous butterfly was named by Alfred S. Meek (in 1907) to honor Queen Alexandra (1844-1925), the Danish wife of King Edward VII of England (1841-1910).
The Smallest Is the Pygmy Blue
With a wingspan of about half-an-inch, the western pygmy blue is the smallest butterfly in North America. It can be found anywhere from Hawaii to the Persian Gulf countries of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
Cabbage Whites Are Very Common
Variations of this species (the cabbage white) can be found on five of the seven continents. However, it is considered to be an invasive species in many areas, as it is not really native to North America or Australia.
They Breathe Through Spiracles
The spiracles are tiny holes on the sides of the butterfly’s body that are connected to the trachea. Unlike the trachea of a human, the trachea oxygenates the insect’s tissues directly.
Their Wings Are Full of Scales
Technically, “Lepidoptera” means “scale wing,” and both butterflies and moths have them. Their colors come from different amounts of melanin, uric acid, flavones and other pigments within the scales. Some insects’ iridescent colors come from structural coloration.
Butterflies Taste with their Feet!
When they touch nectar, they automatically uncoil their long tongue. And speaking of their feet–Have you ever had a butterfly crawl on you? They have prickly feet that can cling to many surfaces, including your skin! Each foot has claws that allow it a strong grip. This lets them stay in place during windy days or when it’s raining.
Butterflies have a short lifecycle, most living just 20-40 days.
Of course, there are exceptions, some living just a couple of days and then, Monarchs, who, if they emerge at the end of the summer from their chrysalis, will MIGRATE! East of the Rocky mountains they migrate to Mexico. West of the Rocky Mountains, they head to some places along the coast of California.
You can’t end a story about butterflies without a treat, right? Just like after dinner, our mouths water for a tasty dessert, so why can’t it be a themed butterfly assortment of cookies and cakes. Here are some ideas that will get your imagination going, and get you into the kitchen for some creative cooking. Bon appetit!
In February, find a local botanical garden or children’s museum that will host a butterfly event. You will be amazed by their wonderful visual beauty as you see them fly all around you and your interaction with them. Your kids and pets will love them too.