The word "Lepidoptera" means "scaly wings" in Greek.
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This name perfectly suits the insects in this group because their wings are covered with thousands of tiny scales overlapping in rows. The scales, which are arranged in colorful designs unique to each species, are what gives the butterfly its beauty. The difference between a butterfly and a moth? Both butterflies and moths belong to the same insect group called Lepidoptera.
In general, butterflies differ from moths in the following ways: 1 Butterflies usually have clubbed antennae but moths have fuzzy or feathery antennae. Moths, on the other hand, rest with their wings spread out flat. There are some very colorful moths.
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This means that the butterfly changes completely from its early larval stage, when it is a caterpillar, until the final stage, when it becomes a beautiful and graceful adult butterfly. Butterfly eggs are tiny, vary in color and may be round, cylindrical or oval. The female butterfly attaches the eggs to leaves or stems of plants that will also serve as a suitable food source for the larvae when they hatch. Caterpillars often, but not always, have several pairs of true legs, along with several pairs of false legs or prolegs. A caterpillar's primary activity is eating.
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They have a voracious appetite and eat almost constantly. As the caterpillar continues to eat, its body grows considerably. The tough outer skin or exoskeleton, however, does not grow or stretch along with the enlarging caterpillar. Instead, the old exoskeleton is shed in a process called molting and it is replaced by a new, larger exoskeleton.
A caterpillar may go through as many as four to five molts before it becomes a pupa. The caterpillar attaches itself to a twig, a wall or some other support and the exoskeleton splits open to reveal the chrysalis. The chrysalis hangs down like a small sack until the transformation to butterfly is complete. The casual observer may think that because the pupa is motionless that very little is going on during this "resting stage. The pupa does not feed but instead gets its energy from the food eaten by the larval stage. Depending on the species, the pupal stage may last for just a few days or it may last for more than a year.
Once the chrysalis casing splits, the butterfly emerges. It will eventually mate and lay eggs to begin the cycle all over again. Most adult butterflies will live only a week or two, while a few species may live as long as 18 months. Images in this section are of the life cycle of the black swallowtail on one of its host plants, fennel. Butterflies are complex creatures. Their day-to-day lives can be characterized by many activities. If you are observant you may see butterflies involved in many of the follow activities.
To observe some activities, such as hybernation, may involve some detective work. To observe other activities such as basking, puddling, or migrating, you will need to be at the proper place at the proper time. Keep an activity log and see how many different butterflies you can spot involved in each activity. The information from the individual butterfly pages may give you some hints as to where or on what plants some of these activities are likely to occur.
The larval or caterpillar stage and the adult butterfly have very different food preferences, largely due to the differences in their mouth parts. Both types of foods must be available in order for the butterfly to complete its life cycle. Caterpillars are very particular about what they eat, which is why the female butterfly lays her eggs only on certain plants.
Caterpillars don't move much and may spend their entire lives on the same plant or even the same leaf! Their primary goal is to eat as much as they can so that they become large enough to pupate. Some caterpillars are considered pests because of the damage they do to crops. Caterpillars do not need to drink additional water because they get all they need from the plants they eat. Adult butterflies are also selective about what they eat.
Unlike caterpillars, butterflies can roam about and look for suitable food over a much broader territory.
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In most cases, adult butterflies are able to feed only on various liquids. It uncoils to sip liquid food, and then coils up again into a spiral when the butterfly is not feeding. Most butterflies prefer flower nectar, but others may feed on the liquids found in rotting fruit, in ooze from trees, and in animal dung. Butterflies prefer to feed in sunny areas protected from wind. A recent University of Kentucky Department of Entomology study compared four commonly available zinnia cultivars with regard to their attractiveness to butterflies.
As a result, their body temperature changes with the temperature of their surroundings. If they get too cold, they are unable to fly and must warm up their muscles in order to resume flight. If the temperature drops too low, they may seek a light colored rock, sand or a leaf in a sunny spot and bask.
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Butterflies bask with their wings spread out in order to soak up the sun's heat. When butterflies get too hot, they may head for shade or for cool areas like puddles. Some species will gather at shallow mud puddles or wet sandy areas, sipping the mineral-rich water. Generally more males than females puddle and it is believed that the salts and nutrients in the puddles are needed for successful mating. Patrolling and perching. There are two methods that a male butterfly might use in order to search for a female mate.
It might patrol or fly over a particular area where other butterflies are active. If it sees a possible mate, it will fly in for a closer look. Or, instead, it might perch on a tall plant in an area where females may be present. If it spots a likely mate, it will swoop in to investigate. In either case, if he finds a suitable female he will begin the mating ritual. If he finds another male instead, a fierce fight may ensue. A male butterfly has several methods of determining whether he has found a female of his own species. One way is by sight. The male will look for butterflies with wings that are the correct color and pattern.
When a male sights a potential mate it will fly closer, often behind or above the female. The male may also do a special "courtship dance" to attract the female. These "dances" consist of flight patterns that are peculiar to that species of butterfly. If the female is interested she may join the male's dance.
They will then mate by joining together end to end at their abdomens. Like a lot of kids, his seven-year-old daughter loves butterflies. And he hopes, despite changing times, to help her cultivate the same sort of appreciation that he feels for these magnificent creatures. Read Caption.
In this composite image, the left wing shows the top view and the right wing shows the bottom view. By Becky Harlan. The Indian leafwing butterfly has the ability to blend in and hide from predators. The jungle queen butterfly, Stichophthalma fruhstorferi, inhabits a very specific range in Vietnam.
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