Did you know that there are 302 species of butterflies in Canada? However, only five are native (endemic) species. Do you know how to tell if you’re looking at a butterfly or a moth? No? Then I shall give you a little butterfly education.
I shall start with the butterfly life cycle. It happens in four stages.
- First, the female lays her eggs on a host plant. These plants are very specifically chosen for the needs of her offspring. The eggs can be laid individually, a few at a time, or in small clusters. They will hatch just a few days after being laid.
- The next stage is the larval stage, or as we know them, caterpillars. These guys are hungry after they hatch. They can eat up to 20 times their own body weight! They also molt several times during the growth stage.
- Stage 3 is the pupal stage. The caterpillar undergoes an amazing transformation into a chrysalis. Inside, the body of the caterpillar break down and reforms as a butterfly.This transformation can take anywhere between several days to a few weeks, but in colder climates, some butterflies spend the entire winter in this stage.
- Ta dah..! And now, the beautiful new butterfly emerges from its chrysalis. It will hang on just underneath it and pump some fluid from its abdomen into its wings. It will gently fan them until they are dry and fully expanded, and it is ready to fly.
There are some other really interesting facts about butterflies I’d like to share with you too.
- If you’re trying to figure out if you’re looking at a butterfly or a moth, look first at the antennae. Butterflies have slender antennae, while moths have one that look similar to feathers.
- Butterflies do NOT form cocoons. Moths do, but not all species. Some moths will bury underground, or under leaf litter to form their chrysalis and spend their pupal life stage.
- Did you know that butterflies taste with their feet?
- Butterflies drink nectar from flowers, and sometimes the juice from fruits. They have a moth part called a proboscis, which is similar to a straw. When butterflies gather together to drink from a wet area, it is called a “puddle party”!
- Male monarch butterflies can be identified by two black spots, one one each of the lower wings. I did not know this until recently! See photo below:
An acquaintance and fellow photographer of mine, Mike A. Hodgson, took this lovely photo of a male Monarch. Can you see the two black spots I mentioned? If you’d like to see more of Mike’s nature photography, you can find him on Facebook.
I hope you liked today’s little mini butterfly factoid. There are many great resources on the internet, butterfly books, and lovely conservatories (when they open up again), where you can find out more.
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