Butterfly and Moth Facts


Facts about Butterflies and Moths
This list is far from being comprehensive. If you have suggestions, please let me know.
  • Butterflies can see red, green, and yellow.
  • The study of butterflies and moths is known as lepidoptery, and biologists that specialize in either are called lepidopterists.
  • Watching butterflies and moths is known as butterflying and mothing.
  • Moths, and especially their caterpillars, are a major agricultural pest in many parts of the world. If you do any science investigations about raising moths, do set the adult moth free. Allow it to die naturally in captivity, or kill the moth to prevent it from being destructive.
  • The top butterfly flight speed is 12 miles per hour. Some moths can fly 25 miles per hour!
  • Each year, monarch butterflies travel from the Great Lakes to Mexico, a distance of about 2,000 miles, and return to the north again in the spring.
  • Butterflies need a body temperature of at least 86 degrees Fahrenheit in order to fly. If you see a butterfly that is trembling, it is shaking to warm its body.
  • Representations of butterflies are seen in Egyptian frescoes at Thebes, which are 3,500 years old.
  • Antarctica is the only continent on which no Lepidoptera, butterflies and moths have been found.
  • There are about 24,000 species of butterflies. There are about  160,000 species of moths.
  • Some moth caterpillars eat natural fibers, thus eat some clothing. But most adult moths  do not eat at all. Most like the Luna, Polyphemus, Atlas, Prometheus, Cercropia, and other large moths do not have mouths. Those that do eat, use a proboscis to drink nectar from flowers.
  • The butterfly with the longest lifespan is the Brimstone butterfly (Gonepterix rhamni) that lives 9-10 months.
  • One type of caterpillar builds a case around its body made of silk (from its body) and pieces of plants and/or soil. An appropriate name for this moth is Case Moth (Psychidae).
  • The caterpillars of some Snout Moths (Pyralididae) live in or on water-plants.
  • The females of some moth species have no wings. They must crawl to get around.
  • Mottephobia is the fear of moths. The origin of the word motte is German (meaning moth) and phobia is Greek (meaning fear).
  • The Morgan’s Sphinx Moth from Madagascar has a proboscis (tube mouth) that is 12 to 14 inches long. This long mouth part is needed to reach the sweet nectar in orchard that is 12 inches deep.
  • Some moths never eat anything as adults because they don’t have mouths. They must live on the energy they stored as caterpillars.
  • 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.
  • There are more types of insects in one tropical rain forest tree than there are in the entire state of Vermont.
  • In 1958 Entomologist W.G. Bruce published a list of Arthropod references in the Bible. The most frequently named bugs from the Bible are: Locust: 24, Moth: 11, Grasshopper: 10, Scorpion: 10, Caterpillar: 9, and Bee: 4.
  • People eat insects – called “Entomophagy”(people eating bugs) – it has been practiced for centuries throughout Africa, Australia, Asia, the Middle East, and North, Central and South America. Why? Because many bugs are both protein-rich and good sources of vitamins, minerals and fats.
  • YOU can eat bugs! Try the “Eat-A-Bug Cookbook” by David George Gordon , 10 Speed Press. Don’t want to cook them yourself? Go to HotLix for all sorts of insect goodies! My favorites are “Cricket-lickit’s” – a flavored sucker with a real edible cricket inside.
  • Many insects can carry 50 times their own body weight. This would be like an adult person lifting two heavy cars full of people.
  • There are over a million described species of insects. Some people estimate there are actually between 15 and 30 million species.
  • Most insects are beneficial to people because they eat other insects, pollinate crops, are food for other animals, make products we use (like honey and silk) or have medical uses.
  • 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.
  • There are more than 700 species of butterflies in North America, but only a handful feed on agricultural crops.
  • Millions of shingle-like, overlapping scales give butterfly and moths wings their colors.
  • The smallest Lepidoptera are moths of the family Nepticulidae, with a wingspan of less than 2 mm (their caterpillars are very tiny also).
  • During the time from hatching to pupation, a caterpillar increases its body size more than 30,000 times.
  • The largest Lepidoptera is the South American owlet moth Thysania agrippina, which has a wingspan of 32 mm (slightly over one foot).
  • The chrysalises (pupae) of some gossamer-winged (lycaenid) butterflies are capable of producing weak sounds to scare off potetial enemies. They do this by flexing and rubbing together body segment membranes.
  • In some moths the wings are mostly transparent (scales only along the wing veins) and they are mimics of wasps.
  • The fastest Lepidoptera are the sphinx moths. Some species have been clocked at
    60 kmph (37 mph). Many of these same moths are also capable of hovering in the air like a helicopter.
  • The organs a butterfly uses to taste food are not located on the butterfly’s head, instead they are located on the terminal (end) segments of the leg (tarsi).
  • The silkworm, Bombix mori, is the only truly domesticated insect. The adult moths are so tame they can barely fly and they must be hand fed.
  • The irridescent colors found on the wings of many Lepidoptera are produced by bending (refracting ) light, not by pigmentation.
  • The vampire moth of Asia has a stiff proboscis that enables them to suck juices from thick-skinned fruits, but occasionally they can be found sucking the blood from a water buffalo or deer.
  • Many caterpillars are covered with stinging (urticating) hairs which carry a toxin that can be quite painful to humans if touched. I can confirm this and it really hurts.
  • It takes about ten pounds of mulberry leaves for silkworms to be able to manufacture 1 pound of cocoons, which can be spun into a silk thread over 100 miles long.
  • The wings of some butterflies and moths are marked with patterns that look very much like letters of the alphabet, as well as numerals.
  • Adult butterflies feed on the nectar of flowers, but may also be seen feeding on rotting fruit, tree sap, fluids from animal carcasses, and mud puddles.
  • The yucca plant and the yucca moth are totally dependent upon one another for their existence – a relationship known as mutualism.
  • Monarch butterflies regularly migrate beween southern Canada and central Mexico, a total distance in excess of 2500 miles. They only weigh 1/50 of an ounce yet travel at
    20 mph and reach altitudes of 10,000 feet.
  • Members of the silkworm moth family have been raised in China since 2697 BC, where the methods are silk production had been a closely guarded secret. Anyone caught removing these insects from China was executed! However, in 55 AD two monks managed to hide some silkworm moths in their walking canes and smuggle them to Constantinople.
  • “Puddle clubs” refers to any group of butterflies (usually males) that gather around mud puddles and other moist areas of soil to suck up salts and other minerals dissolved in water.

Notable Moths–Wikepedia

Moths of economic significance: