From the rarest butterfly to the biggest but endangered species — here is a list of 10 remarkable and fascinating butterfly facts.
The Largest Butterfly
The female Queen Alexandra’s Birdwing (Ornithoptera alexandrae) is the world’s largest butterfly. This huge, poisonous butterfly has a wingspan reaching up to 30 cm (12 in.) The species is native to lowland coastal rainforest in New Guinea. Females are larger than males. They have cream-colored bodies and brown wings with white patches. Male Alexandra Birdwing has a bright yellow body and with green and blue marking on its wings.
The Smallest Butterfly
The Western Pygmy Blue (Brephidium exilis) is the smallest butterfly in North America and considered the world’s smallest butterfly species. It has a wingspan of about 1.2 – 2 cm (1/2 – 3/4 inch.) The species is widespread in North America inhabiting wastelands, salt marshes and deserts. The western pygmy has copper brown wings marked with white coloration at the base. Also, the wings’ outer margin has a row of black spots.
The Longest Life Span
Aside from being the most beautiful of all butterflies, the Monarch Butterfly (Danaus plexippus) has the longest life span amongst the butterflies. the migrating Monarch butterflies can live up to 12 months. During their migration that can cover over 4000 km, these remarkable butterflies can live up to 12 months. The adult has black body with patches of white. It has a wingspan of 8.6 -12.4 (3 3/8 – 4 7/8 in.)
The Morning Cloak
The Morning Cloak (Nymphalis antiopa), is considered the longest living butterfly in North America. The species may live up to 11 months. The species can easily be recognized by its dark brownish-maroon wings marked by yellowish border. This big butterfly has a wingspan of 62–75 mm. Mourning Cloaks prefer gardens, parks, open woods, and ponds as habitat.
The Shortest Life Span
Some butterfly species such as the Small Blue Butterfly, Copper Butterfly and the Spring Azure (photo above) have the shortest life span — lasting just a few days! The Spring Azure (Celastrina ladon) butterfly is widespread throughout North America. Its habitat includes swamps, freshwater marshes and old fields. Males have blue upper wings and grayish-white hind wings marked with small black dots. It has a wing Span of 2.2 -3.5cm (7/8 – 1 3/8 inches.)
The Most Widely Distributed Butterfly
The Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui), also called the Cosmopolitan Butterfly, is the most widely distributed butterfly in the world., The species is widespread throughout occurs North and South America, Europe, Africa and Asia – except Australia and Antarctica. In general, this butterfly is mostly black, brown, and orange with some white spots. The Painted Lady prefers backyards and meadows. It has a wingspan of 5–9 cm (2.0–3.5 in). Adults can live 2–4 weeks.
The Most Common Species
The Cabbage White Butterfly (Pieris brassicae) is the most common species of butterfly around. The species is widespread across Europe, Asia and North Africa. Its preferred habitat includes: gardens, open fields, roadsides and parks. In general, Cabbage White are mostly white with black spots on its upper wings and yellow-green hind wings. It has a wingspan of 32–47 mm (1.25–2 in).
The Rarest Butterfly
The endangered Palos Verdes Blue (Glaucopsyche lygdamus palosverdesensis)is the world’s rarest butterfly. It is native to the Palos Verdes Peninsula in southwest Los Angeles County, California. The butterfly was believed extinct, but was rediscovered in San Pedro in 1994. This blue beauty has a wingspan of only 25–30 mm. The male’s dorsal wings is bluish in color while the female has more brownish-gray color. Both sexes have chalky gray ventral wings marked with dark spots enclosed by white rings.
The Fastest Flier
Again, the Monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) holds the record for the fastest flight, which has been clocked with a top speed reaching 20 mph in still air. Noted for their lengthy annual migration, these beautiful and colorful butterflies can fly a 1000km non-stop!
The Transparent Butterfly
The Glass Winged Butterfly (Greta oto), better known as the “Snow Fly”, is a brush-footed butterfly found in Mexico through Panama. Its transparent, fluffy white fur wings lack the colored scales found in other butterflies. This ‘little mirror’ has a wingspan of 5.6 to 6.1 cm (2.2 to 2.4 in). It has a dark body and the opaque -bordered wings, tinted with red or orange, are dark brown in color.
The Night Flier
Some butterflies will fly at night. An example is the Northern Pearly-eye (Enodia anthedon).The species is found in North America, inhabiting woodlands, open spaces, and along streams. A territorial butterfly, it has ears on their wings so it can avoid bats. The butterfly’s upper wings are purplish brown in color with submarginal eyespots. The hind wings are brown. It has a wingspan of 4.5 – 6.7 cm (1 3/4 – 2 5/8 inches.)