All About Butterflies - Butterflies Facts & Information

About Butterflies

Butterflies have a four-stage life cycle, which includes egg, larva (caterpillar), pupa (chrysalis), and adult. The adult butterfly emerges from the chrysalis after a metamorphosis process and is ready to mate and reproduce.

Butterflies play a vital role in pollination and are essential for the survival of many plant species. They have specialised mouthparts called proboscis that enable them to drink nectar from flowers. While feeding on nectar, they also transfer pollen from one flower to another, facilitating the fertilisation process. Even a few flowers can create a wonderful environment which can attract butterflies, where they can eat from nectar rich flowers away from predators.

One of the most impressive butterfly migrations is that of the monarch butterfly. Every year, millions of monarch butterflies travel thousands of miles from their breeding grounds in North America to their overwintering sites in Mexico. This butterfly migration is one of the most significant natural events in the world.

Butterflies have many predators, including birds, spiders, and other insects. Some species have developed defence mechanisms, such as camouflage or mimicry, to avoid being detected by predators.

In many cultures, butterflies symbolise transformation and rebirth. In some countries, they are believed to be messengers of good luck and are associated with beauty, grace, and happiness.

Overall, butterflies are fascinating creatures that have captured the imagination of people for centuries. Their vibrant colours, intricate patterns, and delicate wings make them some of the most beautiful insects on the planet.


How many species of Butterflies are there?

There are over 20,000 species of butterflies worldwide, with new species still being discovered and described by scientists. The exact number of butterfly species is difficult to determine because some species have very similar physical characteristics, and it can be challenging to differentiate between them.

Additionally, some butterfly species have a wide distribution and can be found in different regions, making it harder to establish the exact number of species.

Butterfly families here in the UK are diverse and varied, including common species such as the peacock butterfly, whos wings resemble peacock's tail feathers, and the more rarer purple emperor butterfly which has a silvery underside, bright blue wings and white with two black spots and black wing edges. Most species can be found across the country, however some areas provide a much better habitat to certain butterflies and moths.


Are Butterflies Insects?

Yes, butterflies are insects. In fact, they are members of the insect order Lepidoptera, which also includes moths. All insects, including butterflies, have three body segments (head, thorax, and abdomen), six legs, and wings. They also have a pair of antennae and compound eyes. The scientific classification of butterflies is as follows:

Kingdom: Animalia Phylum: Arthropoda Class: Insecta Order: Lepidoptera Suborder: Ditrysia Superfamily: Papilionoidea Family: Various (depending on species) Genus: Various (depending on species) Species: Various (over 20,000 species known)

Many butterflies have unique and unusual markings and can fly many miles to find food and a suitable habitat to live in.


How long do Butterflies Live?

The lifespan of butterflies varies depending on the species. Generally, the adult stage of a butterfly's life is relatively short, ranging from a few days to a few weeks, although some species can live up to several months. For example, the lifespan of a Monarch butterfly is usually around 2-6 weeks, while the Giant Swallowtail butterfly can live for up to 6 months.

The length of a butterfly's life can also depend on factors such as climate, habitat, and predators. In some cases, the lifespan of a butterfly can be shortened due to human activities such as habitat destruction, pesticide use, and climate change.

It is worth noting that the adult stage is just one part of a butterfly's life cycle. Before reaching the adult stage, butterflies go through several other stages, including egg, larva (caterpillar), and pupa (chrysalis), and the duration of each stage can vary depending on the species.


Do Butterflies Hibernate?

Some species of butterflies do hibernate, while others do not. The behaviour of butterflies during the winter months depends on the species and the climate in which they live.

In general, butterflies that live in colder climates, such as in northern latitudes, are more likely to hibernate or migrate to warmer areas during the winter. For example, the Monarch butterfly is known for its long-distance migration to overwintering sites in Mexico and California.

In contrast, many species of butterflies that live in warmer climates do not hibernate or migrate during the winter months. Instead, they may enter a state of dormancy, where they become less active and conserve energy until the weather warms up again.

Some species of butterflies also go through a diapause stage, which is similar to hibernation but occurs during a specific stage of their life cycle. For example, the pupae of some species may enter diapause during the winter months, delaying their emergence until the weather is more favourable for survival.

Overall, the behaviour of butterflies during the winter months varies depending on the species and the environmental conditions in which they live.


Defining characteristics

Butterflies have several defining characteristics that distinguish them from other insects. Here are some of the most notable ones:

  1. Wings: Butterflies have two pairs of wings covered in tiny scales that form intricate patterns and colours.

  2. Proboscis: Butterflies have a long, straw-like mouthpart called a proboscis that they use to feed on nectar from flowers.

  3. Antennae: Butterflies have two long, thin antennae that are often club-shaped at the tip.

  4. Metamorphosis: Butterflies go through a complete metamorphosis, which includes four distinct stages: egg, larva (caterpillar), pupa (chrysalis), and adult.

  5. Flight: Butterflies are known for their graceful flight, often fluttering and gliding from flower to flower.

  6. Eyes: Butterflies have two large, compound eyes that allow them to see a wide range of colours and detect movement.

  7. Size and Shape: Butterflies vary in size and shape depending on the species, but they typically have a slender body and broad wings relative to their body size.

  8. Coloration: Butterflies are known for their striking and colourful patterns on their wings, which can serve as a means of defence against predators or attract potential mates.

Overall, butterflies are a unique group of insects with several distinguishing features that make them fascinating to observe and study.


Where Do Butterflies Come From?

Butterflies come from eggs that are laid by adult female butterflies. The eggs hatch into larvae, also known as caterpillars, which feed on leaves and other plant material. As the caterpillar grows, it sheds its skin several times in a process known as malting.

After a period of feeding and growth, the caterpillar forms a protective case around itself, called a chrysalis or pupa. Inside the chrysalis, the caterpillar undergoes a process of metamorphosis, during which it transforms into an adult butterfly.

When the butterfly is fully developed, it breaks out of the chrysalis and pumps fluid into its wings to expand them. The adult butterfly then emerges, ready to mate and reproduce.

The location where butterflies come from varies depending on the species. Different species of butterflies are found in different regions of the world, ranging from tropical rainforests to temperate forests and meadows. Some species have specific habitats, while others are more adaptable and can thrive in a variety of environments.

Overall, butterflies are fascinating insects that go through a remarkable transformation process as they develop from egg to adult. Their life cycle is closely tied to the plants they feed on, and they play an essential role in pollination and ecosystem health.


Worldwide Butterflies

There are over 20,000 species of butterflies worldwide, found in different regions of the world. Here are some examples of butterfly species from various parts of the world:

  1. Monarch Butterfly (Danaus plexippus): Found in North and South America, the Monarch butterfly is known for its long-distance migration and striking orange and black wings.

  2. Birdwing Butterfly (Ornithoptera spp.): Found in Southeast Asia and Australia, birdwing butterflies are among the largest butterflies in the world, with wingspans of up to 11 inches.

  3. Blue Morpho Butterfly (Morpho menelaus): Found in Central and South America, the Blue Morpho is known for its brilliant blue wings that shimmer in the sunlight.

  4. Swallowtail Butterfly (Papilio spp.): Found worldwide, swallowtail butterflies are known for their distinctive, swallow-like tails on their hind wings.

  5. Peacock Butterfly (Aglais io): Found in Europe and Asia, the Peacock butterfly is known for its striking eye-like spots on its wings.

  6. Glasswing Butterfly (Greta oto): Found in Central and South America, the Glasswing butterfly is known for its transparent wings that make it nearly invisible against certain backgrounds.

  7. Painted Lady Butterfly (Vanessa cardui): Found worldwide, the Painted Lady is a migratory butterfly species that is often seen in large numbers during migration events.

  8. Buckeye Butterfly (Junonia coenia): Found in North and South America, the Buckeye butterfly is known for its distinctive eye-spots on its wings.

These are just a few examples of the many butterfly species found worldwide. Each species has its own unique characteristics and adaptations that make them fascinating and beautiful insects.


British Butterflies

From butterflies with light grey tips, washed out orange patches, or a blue dusting colour, through to butterflies with yellow markings, blue spots, red stripes and a other structural colours, British butterflies come in a kaleidoscope of different colours.

Most butterflies have different markings on their forewings and hindwings, creating unique patterns which make them stand out from other any other insect which is not a butterfly.

There are around 59 species of butterfly that can be found in the British Isles, with some being native to the region, and others being occasional visitors or migrants. Here are some examples of British butterfly species:

  1. Small Tortoiseshell (Aglais urticae): A medium-sized butterfly with orange and black wings, commonly found in gardens and meadows. They can have black and yellow markings as well as a dark brown margin.

  2. Peacock Butterfly (Aglais io): A large and distinctive butterfly with red, brown, and blue eyespots on its wings, commonly found in woodlands and hedgerows. Often having dark brown hindwings, peacock butterflies are brightly coloured and can be easily spotted thanks to their black eyespot.

  3. Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta): A striking butterfly with black and orange wings and white spots along the edge, commonly found in gardens and parks.

  4. Common Blue (Polyommatus icarus): A small butterfly with blue wings and white fringes, commonly found in grassy habitats and meadows.

  5. Large Skipper (Ochlodes sylvanus): A brown butterfly with orange tips on its wings, commonly found in grassy habitats and meadows.

  6. Small Copper (Lycaena phlaeas): A small butterfly with copper-coloured wings and black spots, commonly found in grassy habitats and heathlands.

  7. Speckled Wood (Pararge aegeria): A medium-sized butterfly with brown wings and white spots, commonly found in woodlands and hedgerows.

  8. Brimstone (Gonepteryx rhamni): A large and bright yellow butterfly, commonly found in hedgerows and woodland edges.

These are just a few examples of the many butterfly species found in the British Isles. The diversity of butterflies in the region is remarkable given its relatively small size and varied habitats.

What do Butterflies eat?

Butterflies feed mainly on nectar from flowers. Nectar is a sugary liquid that is produced by flowers to attract pollinators like butterflies. Butterflies have a long, thin tube-like structure called a proboscis, which they use to suck up nectar from flowers. The proboscis unrolls to reach the nectar, and then rolls back up when not in use.

In addition to nectar, some butterfly species also feed on other liquids, such as sap, rotting fruit, and animal dung. Some species of butterflies also feed on other insects, such as aphids and other small insects, while they are in their larval (caterpillar) stage.

Butterflies require specific nutrients and minerals to develop properly, and they can obtain these nutrients from other sources besides nectar. For example, some species of butterflies lay their eggs on specific plants, and their caterpillars feed exclusively on those plants. These plants are called host plants, and they provide the necessary nutrients for the caterpillars to develop into healthy adults.

Overall, butterflies play an essential role in pollination and are an important part of many ecosystems. Their feeding habits help to transfer pollen between flowers, facilitating the fertilisation process, and enabling plants to reproduce.

Male Butterflies & Female Butterflies

Male and female butterflies have some differences in their physical characteristics and behaviour, although these differences can vary depending on the species. Here are some general differences between male and female butterflies:

  1. Size: In many butterfly species, males are slightly smaller than females.

  2. Coloration: Males and females may have slightly different coloration or patterns on their wings, although this can vary widely depending on the species.

  3. Antennae: In many species, males have longer and thinner antennae than females. The tips of the antennae may also be more pointed in males.

  4. Behaviour: Male butterflies are often more active and aggressive than females, particularly during mating season. They may compete for access to females or engage in territorial behaviours to attract a mate.

  5. Reproductive organs: Female butterflies have a larger abdomen than males, which contains their reproductive organs. Males have specialised structures on their abdomen that allow them to transfer sperm to females during mating.

It's important to note that these differences can vary widely depending on the species, and there may be many exceptions to these general patterns. Additionally, there are some butterfly species in which males and females look nearly identical, making it difficult to tell them apart without close examination.


Butterflies exhibit a wide range of behaviours throughout their life cycle, which can vary depending on the species, environment, and developmental stage. Here are some common behaviours exhibited by butterflies:

  1. Mating: Adult butterflies engage in mating behaviour to reproduce. Males may compete for access to females or engage in courtship displays to attract a mate.

  2. Feeding: Butterflies feed on nectar and other liquids to obtain energy for flight and other activities. They use their proboscis to suck up liquids from flowers, sap, and other sources.

  3. Pollination: While feeding on nectar, butterflies also transfer pollen between flowers, facilitating the fertilisation process and enabling plants to reproduce.

  4. Sunbathing: Butterflies are ectothermic, meaning that their body temperature depends on the temperature of their environment. To warm up and regulate their body temperature, they may bask in the sun or rest with their wings open.

  5. Migration: Some butterfly species migrate to different regions in search of food, breeding sites, or overwintering habitats. The Monarch butterfly, for example, travels thousands of miles from North America to Mexico every year.

  6. Camouflage and mimicry: Some butterfly species have evolved to blend in with their surroundings or mimic the appearance of other insects or animals, as a means of defence against predators.

  7. Resting and roosting: Butterflies may rest or roost on leaves, branches, or other surfaces when they are not feeding or mating.

These are just a few examples of the many behaviours exhibited by butterflies throughout their life cycle. Butterflies are fascinating insects that have adapted to a wide range of environments and ecological niches.

Five facts about Butterflies

  1. Butterflies taste with their feet: Butterflies have taste receptors on their feet, which they use to taste the plants they land on. This helps them identify whether a plant is suitable for laying eggs or feeding.

  2. Some butterflies migrate thousands of miles: Certain butterfly species, such as the Monarch butterfly, can migrate thousands of miles each year. The Monarch butterfly migrates from North America to Mexico, covering up to 3,000 miles.

  3. Butterflies can see ultraviolet light: Butterflies have the ability to see a wider range of colours than humans, including ultraviolet light. This helps them locate flowers and potential mates more easily.

  4. Butterfly wings are covered in tiny scales: The intricate patterns and colours on butterfly wings are created by tiny scales that cover the surface of the wings. These scales are delicate and can easily be rubbed off.

  5. Butterflies can taste with their proboscis: In addition to tasting with their feet, butterflies also have taste receptors on their proboscis. This allows them to taste the nectar of a flower before they start feeding on it, ensuring that it's the right type of flower and that it has enough nectar to sustain them.