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12 Fun Facts about Butterflies

Posted: Tuesday 22nd August 2017 by Victoria Hill

Duke of Burgundy butterfly © Alfred GayDuke of Burgundy butterfly © Alfred Gay

12 amazing, fun facts about butterflies that you may not already know.

It’s been a beautiful summer filled with butterflies of every colour, shape and size. With the recent Big Butterfly Count and Sir David Attenborough’s warnings of how critical this year would be for many butterfly species, our fluttering little friends have been the subject of much focus these past months… but how much do you know about them?

We’ve gathered 12 fun facts about butterflies that you may not already know:

  1. It is commonly believed that the word "butterfly" is a derived from "butter-coloured fly" which is attributed to the yellow of the male Brimstone butterfly.
  2. A butterfly’s lifecycle is made up of four parts, egg, larva (caterpillars), pupa (chrysalis) and adult.
  3. Butterflies are cold-blooded and will not fly if the temperature is below 50 degrees Fahrenheit.
  4. Representations of butterflies are seen in Egyptian frescoes at Thebes, which are 3,500 years old.
  5. Antarctica is the only continent on which no Lepidoptera (an order of insects that comprises the butterflies and moths) have been found.
  6. There are about 18,500 named species of butterflies. Moths are even more numerous - about 140,000 species of them were counted all over the world.
  7. The Brimstone butterfly (Gonepterix rhamni) has the longest lifetime of any adult butterfly: 9-10 months.
  8. Butterflies and insects have their skeletons on the outside of their bodies, called the exoskeleton. This protects the insect and keeps water inside their bodies so they don’t dry out.
  9. Many butterflies can taste with their feet to find out whether the leaf they sit on is good to lay eggs on to be their caterpillars' food or not.
  10. An adult butterfly will eventually emerge from the chrysalis where it will wait a few hours for its wings to fill with blood and dry, before flying for the first time.
  11. Britain has 59 resident butterfly species and there are half a dozen or more that visit us regularly from abroad and which breed here in warm weather.
  12. Five butterflies have become extinct in Britain in the last 150 years - the Large Copper, Mazarine Blue, Black-veined White, Large Blue and Large Tortoiseshell. The Chequered Skipper became extinct in England in 1976, but still survives in Scotland. The large Blue has been successfully reintroduced using butterflies from Sweden.

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