Facts About Butterflies

Updated February 5, 2019
Girl Catching Butterfly At Park

There are thousands of interesting facts about butterflies. These delicate creatures seem to enthrall nearly everyone with their colorful beauty, graceful flight, and amazing abilities.

Facts About How Butterflies Develop

Some of the most mysterious facts about butterflies have to do with how they grow and develop. The metamorphosis from caterpillar to butterfly is done in the hidden confines of a chrysalis and seems to be a mysterious process to most people. Some facts about their growth and development are:

  • Many caterpillars eat 27,000 times their own body weight before they are ready to enter the chrysalis.
  • In the pupa stage, the caterpillar's body is turned to a gel-like liquid and many cells are broken down and reorganized, while some organs stay the same.
  • Once a caterpillar hatches from the egg, it can increase its size 30,000 times before it is ready for the pupa stage.
  • Chrysalises of certain butterflies can produce small sounds to frighten predators away.
  • Once they come out of the chrysalis, the butterfly will hang upside down so fluid from its body flows into the wings with the aid of gravity. This process can take several hours.
  • The waste leftover from the chrysalis stage is ejected from the anus before the butterfly first flies away. This foul-smelling red liquid is called meconium.

Cocoons Hanging From Stick

Fun Butterfly Facts

  • There are approximately 17,500 species of butterflies in the world.
  • Butterflies taste with their feet.
  • Most caterpillars have 12 eyes (6 pairs). They are a very simple structure and can only sense light and dark.
  • All butterflies have compound eyes made up of about 6,000 lenses.
  • Butterflies can see color and they can even see ultraviolet light. Humans cannot see this type of light.
  • Butterflies have the senses of smell, taste, and touch.
  • Butterflies eat more than sucking nectar from flowers, they also such up liquids from tree sap, dead animals, poop, animal urine, fruits, and drink sweat and tears.
  • Liquid dieters, butterflies excrete fluid waste through the anus.
  • Male butterflies participate in mud-puddling to harvest mating nutrients from shallow mud puddles or muddy areas. A male butterfly can collect 600 times his own body mass in fluids that are expelled through his anus.
  • Female butterflies have a second stomach (bursa) just for mating to recycle and digest unused male sperm proteins.
  • Pictures of butterflies can be seen on ancient Egyptian frescoes in Thebes. These frescoes are estimated to be over 3,000 years old.
  • Butterflies do not sleep (no eyelids) but they do rest at night and can become inactive on cloudy days.

  • The colors of a butterfly come from minute scales that cover the surface of the wing.
  • The only continent where no butterflies can be found is Antarctica.
  • Butterflies are not necessarily peaceful. They will fight each other for the control of a sunny patch of ground.
  • The iridescent colors of the butterfly are caused not by pigmentation but by the light bending through the scales.
Mud puddling Butterflies

More Facts About Butterflies

  • The word butterfly comes from an old English word for butter churn, buttorfleoge.
  • The Mourning Cloak butterfly will play dead around predators.
  • Butterflies must be warm to fly, and they have to reach a body temperature of at least 86 F to do it.
  • The Brimstone butterfly has one of the longest life-cycles (10 months).
  • Butterflies hide in underbrush, leaves, and other places of shelter when it rains. Their wings can become torn from the wind and the heavy rainfall.
  • Skippers may be the fastest flying butterfly with speeds of up to 20 miles per hour.
  • Monarch butterflies have been observed as high as 1,000 feet in the air.
  • The Monarch butterfly may migrate more than 3,000 miles.
  • Butterflies do not use lungs to breathe. Tiny openings (spiracles) in their sides connected to trachea tubes carry oxygen into their bodies.
  • The largest butterfly is the Queen Alexandra's Birdwing. It lives on New Guinea and can have a wingspan of 12" or more.
  • The Northern Pearly Eye butterfly flies at night.

Butterflies Help Man

Butterflies are an important part of our world. They pollinate plants more than any other insect except bees. When the eco-system is out-of-balance butterflies begin to die out and are good indicators of a healthy environment. Butterflies are a favorite food of songbirds, which many people like to attract to their gardens. These are only a few of the many facts about butterflies. These insects are so interesting that hundreds of books have been written about them, and they have been carefully studied by many scientists. Since the greatest threat to butterflies is loss of habitat knowing more about them is an important way to protect these amazing creatures.

Facts About Butterflies