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Butterflies are some of the most frequent insects on the Earth. They are found in nearly every habitat though in others they are solely active for a short period. The bugs are known for their distinctive wing patterns and their affiliation with flowers. Almost all species subsist on nectar and so the insects have come to be associated with summer season and the blooming season. Some might eat tree sap, pollen or decaying flesh. Scientists have proven that the butterflies date back to the Paleocene period; approximately fifty six million years ago. The paper focuses on the butterfly’s biology. It discusses its classification, appearance, stages and biological behavior.

Classification and description

The butterfly is in the order Lepidoptera; an order it shares with moths. There are several families of butterflies and they include Hedylidae, Lycanidae, Hesperidaee, Papilionidae, Nymphalidae, Rionidae, and Pieridae (Meister 17). All of them are defined by the color of their color and shape of their wings and other extremities. However, all butterflies are characterized by large wings in the adult stage. All of them also go through the egg, larvae and pupae stage. Additionally, almost all of them will have bright colors and patterns on their wings that are there for both mating and defensive purposes. All butterfly wings are four in number and they are covered with scales. Finally, almost all butterflies are diurnal; operate during the day.

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A butterfly’s structure is quite standard across the different families. To begin with, it has the basic insect structure of head, thorax and abdomen with six legs. Each section of the butterfly has two legs. Additionally, the butterfly’s antennae are clubbed as opposed to those of the moth which are feathery or threadlike (Boggs et al 35). The insect is also able to coil its proboscis when it is not in use. As mentioned, the insect’s wings are covered with scales that give them their color. Butterflies will hold their wings perpendicular to the ground when they are at rest.

Distribution and migration

The insects are found in every habitat except the Antarctica. Many species are found across continents but there are some which are native to particular areas. For example, the Monarch butterfly is native to North America but is now found in Australia, New Zealand and the surrounding region (Schlaepfer 49). Scientists have been able to catalogue approximately 18,500 species of butterflies with several restricted to specific habitats. A feature of many species of butterflies, especially in the Northern Hemisphere, is that they are migratory. They fly south during winter and then fly back north when summer arrives. They are believed to use a time-compensated sun-compass to navigate during migration.

Life cycle

Adult butterflies live for between a week and a year depending on the species and all of them lay eggs. The number of times that an adult butterfly will brood will depend on the species and weather conditions but the maximum for all species is usually twice (Wimmer 57). Butterflies will seek to lay eggs in protected areas and the eggs are further protected by a hard-ridged outer shell. Hatching usually happens in spring and larvae emerge. After that is the pupae stage. In many cases the pupae stage is dormant and that enables the insect to survive harsh weather. The pupae then finally transform into adult butterflies that begin the process again.


As stated, almost all butterflies feed on nectar. Therefore, they will usually fly around looking for blooming flowers. All adult butterflies can only ingest liquids through their proboscis (Howard 63). Therefore, even when they seek out other food sources like pollen, rotting flesh and salt, they will try and find them in liquid form. Butterflies use their color and dominant shows to attract mates and copulate. They are also very territorial and have been observed chasing butterflies and other insects from their areas.

Extraneous details

There are species of butterflies that do not lay eggs. In genera Euchloe, Erebia, Colias and Parnassius, larvae emerge from a female adult’s stomach when that adult dies. The butterfly in this sense will only experience three stages outside the parent. Butterflies have the most predators when they are in the larvae stage (Howard 78). The caterpillars have to fend off insects, reptiles, birds and some mammals. The larvae and pupae stages are also exposed to parasitoids which eat them from the inside out. The caterpillars will also face fungal and bacterial diseases before they turn into pupae. The most recognizable endangered butterfly is the “Queen Alexandria’s birdwing’. Like other animals, it is endangered by humans who trade it and destroy its habitat.


There is a lot to know about the beautiful insect called butterfly. The insect occupies all habitats except the Antarctic and is divided into 18,500 species. Butterflies are quite widespread because of their tendency to migrate. They are divided into the head, thorax and abdomen and almost all of them go through four stages of development. They feed on nectar and their bright colors help them to breed. There are indeed many butterflies that are endangered and they need the world’s attention.

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Works Cited

Boggs, Carol L, Ward B. Watt, and Paul R. Ehrlich. Butterflies: Ecology and Evolution Taking Flight. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003. Print.
Howard, Fran. Butterflies. Mankato, Minn: Capstone Press, 2005. Print.
Meister, Cari. Butterflies. Edina, MN: Abdo Pub, 2000. Print.
Schlaepfer, Gloria G. Butterflies. New York: Benchmark Books, 2004. Print.
Wimmer, Teresa. Butterflies. Mankato, MN: Creative Education, 2007. Print.

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