What is a Butterfly?
Butterflies are beautiful, flying insects with large scaly wings.
Like all insects, they have six jointed legs, three body parts, a pair
of antennae, compound eyes, and an exoskeleton. The three body parts are
the head, thorax (the chest), and abdomen (the tail end).
The butterfly’s body is covered by tiny sensory hairs. The four wings
and the six legs of the butterfly are attached to the thorax. The thorax
contains the muscles that make the legs and wings move.
Butterfly fossils are rare. The earliest butterfly fossils are from
the early Cretaceous period, about 130 million years ago. Their
development is closely linked to the evolution of flowering plants
(angiosperms) since both adult butterflies and caterpillars feed on
flowering plants, and the adults are important pollinators of many
flowering plants. Flowering plants also evolved during the Cretaceous
How to attract birds and butterflies using garden planters.
Attracting birds and butterflies to your outdoor living space is not
difficult to do if you welcome them with a long-term source of food,
water, and a place of safety. It means planting the kinds of flowers,
shrubs, vines, and trees that provide berries, seeds, and nectar, a
nesting area that is protected from predators, and fresh water for
drinking and bathing. And, yes, you can do all that in a small space
with container gardens, and even if you are a city dweller, birds and
butterflies will accept your yard, patio, deck, or balcony as a wildlife
oasis and pay regular visits.
How do you create the best environment for attracting birds and
Life cycle of a
Butterflies and moths undergo a complete metamorphosis in which they
go through four different life stages.
Egg - A butterfly starts its life as an egg, often laid on a leaf.
Larva - The larva (caterpillar) hatches from an egg and eats leaves
or flowers almost constantly. The caterpillar molts (loses its old skin)
many times as it grows. The caterpillar will increase up to several
thousand times in size before pupating.
Pupa - It turns into a pupa (chrysalis); this is a resting stage.
Adult - A beautiful, flying adult emerges. This adult will continue the
Butterflies are found all over the world and in all types of
environments: hot and cold, dry and moist, at sea level and high in the
mountains. Most butterfly species, however, are found in tropical areas,
especially tropical rainforests.
Many butterflies migrate in order to avoid adverse environmental
conditions (like cold weather). Butterfly migration is not well
understood. Most migrate relatively short distances (like the Painted
Lady, the Red Admiral, and the Common Buckeye), but a few (like some
Monarchs) migrate thousands of miles.
Caterpillars spend most of their time eating leaves using strong
mandibles (jaws). A caterpillar’s first meal, however, is its own
eggshell. A few caterpillars are meat-eaters; the larva of the
carnivorous Harvester butterfly eats woolly aphids. Butterflies and
moths can only sip liquid food using a tube-like proboscis, which is a
long, flexible “tongue.”
This proboscis uncoils to sip food, and coils up again into a spiral
when not in use. Most butterflies live on nectar from flowers. Some
butterflies sip the liquid from rotting fruits and a rare few prefer
rotting animal flesh or animal fluids (the Harvester butterfly pierces
the bodies of woolly aphids with its sharp proboscis and drinks the body
Swallowtails are strong fliers. Butterflies are very good fliers.
They have two pairs of large wings covered with colourful, iridescent
scales in overlapping rows. Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths) are the
only insects that have scaly wings. The wings are attached to the
butterfly’s thorax (mid-section). Veins support the delicate wings and
nourish them with blood.
Butterflies can only fly if their body temperature is above 86
degrees. Butterflies sun themselves to warm up in cool weather. As
butterflies age, the colour of the wings fades and the wings become