There are about 28,000 extant species of butterflies that are divided into 30 orders, the main basis of classification being their wing structure.
Butterflies and moths belong to an order called Lepidoptera. Butterflies are found worldwide except in Antarctica. Butterflies’ sizes vary from a tiny 1/8 inch to a huge almost 12 inches. They have 6 legs, one pair of antennae, a segmented body that has three distinguishable parts: a head, a thorax and an abdomen. Butterflies have their skeletons on the outside of their bodies, called the exoskeleton. Though they don’t have lungs, butterflies breath through openings in their abdomen called “spiracles”.
Butterflies are cold blooded and it is necessary for them to warm up their flight muscles. This is done by stretching out in the sun in order to absorb heat. However, if their body temperature drops below 86 degrees they have to wait until they warm back up.
All butterflies have complex eyes made up of about 60,000 lenses and there are certain species of butterflies that have thousands of eyes. Butterflies can see color such as green, red and yellow and they can even see ultraviolet light.
Butterflies smell with their antennae, “taste” with their feet and drink nectar and juices through their proboscis (straw-like structure). They Butterflies have a preference for flowers that are red, yellow, pink, or purple and have single petals.
The Cabbage White Butterfly
The Cabbage White Butterfly is the most common species of butterfly around and are found mostly in vegetable gardens. Its caterpillar that is green in color blends in perfectly with the cabbage leaves.
The Queen Alexandra Birdwing
The Queen Alexandra’s Birdwing is the largest and also the rarest extant species of butterfly. It is native to Papua New Guinea where it inhibits rain forest. An adult female’s wingspan can reach 26 cm.
The Pygmy Butterfly
The Pygmy Butterfly earned the honor of having the shortest wingspan at 11 mm. Eastern Tailed Blue, Marine Blue, Eastern Tailed Blue, Small Checkered Skipper and the Bog Elfin all share top honors for Canada’s smallest butterflies with wingspan of 16 mm.
The Painted Lady Butterfly
The Painted Lady is the most widespread butterfly species that are found in all parts of the world except in South America and Antarctica.br />
The Brimstone Butterfly
The Brimstone Butterfly (Gonepterix rhamni) lives the longest among all butterfly species. Typically, adults have a 10 month lifespan.
The Spring Azure
The Spring Azure is one of the shortest lived butterflies lasting only a couple of days.
The Giant Swallowtail
Around 700 species of butterflies are found in North America, but only a few species feed on agricultural crops. The Giant Swallowtail is the largest butterfly found in Canada. Its wingspan can reach up to 5 inches.
The Mourning Cloak
The Mourning Cloak has been known to play dead in order to escape predators. Mourning Cloaks and Compton Tortoiseshells frequently feed at Sapsucker drillings.
The Northern Pearly Eyes
Northern Pearly Eyes Butterfly flies at night and have ears on their wings so they can avoid bats. Also, theses butterflies are territorial hence they will attack other male intruders.
The Milbert’s Tortoiseshell
Milbert’s Tortoiseshells (Aglais milberti) lay eggs in clusters containing a thousand or more .