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A butterfly is a flying insect of the order Lepidoptera. Many butterflies have striking colours and patterns on their wings. When touched by humans, they tend to lose some scales, that look like a fine powder. If they lose too many scales, their ability to fly will be impaired. People who study or collect butterflies (or the closely related moths) are called lepidopterists. Butterfly watching is growing in popularity as a hobby.


 


Diet: Butterflies live primarily on nectar from flowers. Some also derive nourishment from pollen, tree sap, rotting fruit, dung, and dissolved minerals in wet sand or dirt. Butterflies are also pollinators, and some -- like the monarch -- migrate over great distances each year.

A taste for salt: Several species of butterflies need more sodium than provided by the nectar they drink from flowers. As such, they are attracted to the sodium in salt (which the males often give to the females to ensure fertility). As human sweat contains significant quantities of salt, they sometimes land on people.

Confused identity: Butterflies are often confused with moths, but there are a few simple differences between them, including colour, habits, and pupating appearance. The easiest way to tell them apart is their appearance when at rest -- butterflies tend to rest with their wings spread open, while moths tend to rest with their wings closed.


Funnel eggs: Butterfly eggs consist of a hard-ridged outer layer of shell, called the chorion. This is lined with a thin coating of wax which prevents the egg from drying out before the larva has had time to fully develop. Each egg contains a number of tiny funnel-shaped openings at one end, called micropyles; the purpose of these holes is to allow sperm to enter and fertilize the egg. Butterfly and moth eggs vary greatly in size between species, but they are all either round or oval in shape.

Eating machines: Butterfly larvae, or caterpillars, are multi-legged eating machines. They consume plant leaves and spend practically all of their time in search of food. When the larva exceeds a minimum weight at a particular time of day, it will stop feeding and begin "wandering" in a quest for a suitable pupation site, usually the underside of a leaf. The larva transforms into a pupa (chrysalis), which then transforms into a butterfly by metamorphosis. To transform from the miniature wings visible on the outside of the pupa into large structures usable for flight, the pupal wings must absorb a great deal of nutrients. If one wing is surgically removed early on, the other three will grow to a larger size.

Growing to fly: The adult, sexually mature, stage of the insect is known as the imago. As Lepidoptera, butterflies have four wings that are covered with tiny scales, but, unlike moths, the fore- and hindwings are not hooked together, permitting a more graceful flight. After it emerges from its pupal stage, a butterfly cannot fly for some time, because its wings have not yet unfolded. A newly-emerged butterfly needs to spend some time 'inflating' its wings with blood and letting them dry, during which time it is extremely vulnerable to predators.

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 Kingdom: Animalia

Division:  Rhopalocera

 Phylum: Arthropoda

 Class: Insecta

 Order: Lepidoptera