Butterflies: Believe It or Not
Fun Butterfly Facts to Know and Tell
Robert Frost called them “flying flowers.” The French call them papillon, which also means “parking ticket.” In the United States we call them butterflies, there are lots of theories about why, but no one knows for sure. Want to learn more about these curious creatures? Grab your magnifying glass and take a look at this list of 10 fun butterfly facts.
- Do butterflies sleep? At night, or when it’s cloudy or cool outside, butterflies land and might look like they are sleeping. But they never close their eyes. They don’t have eyelids!
2. How do butterflies see? Butterflies have two eyes just like we do. But butterfly eyes are called compound eyes because they have many, many lenses. That means butterflies can see many different things in many directions all at the same time. Their butterfly brains collect all of that information and make one whole picture from all those tiny parts. Try looking through the special compound lens in the Butterflies LIVE! exhibit space and you’ll see the world just like a butterfly does. Most butterflies can see red, yellow, blue, and green, but some species can see other colors, too.
3. Can butterflies smell? Butterflies don’t have noses. They “smell” with their antennae. (See no. 5 to learn how they taste!)
4. How do butterflies eat? Butterflies don’t eat. They drink! They use their mouth, called a proboscis, like a straw to sip their food. When they’re not drinking, they roll their tongue up and tuck it under their chin.
5. Can butterflies taste? Butterflies “taste” with their feet! Tiny organs on a butterfly’s feet can sense the chemical signature of anything they land on. That’s how they know if something is good to eat.
6. What do butterflies drink? Butterflies like to sip nectar from flowers and juice from fruit, which gives them plenty of sugar for energy. But they also need salts and minerals that they get from “puddling” — drinking out of mud puddles, or wet spots on the ground. A group of male butterflies enjoying a puddle together is called a “puddle club.”
7. How do butterflies defend themselves? The bright color patterns on some butterfly’s wings help them hide them from predators by blending in with the other colors in the garden. Other butterflies taste bad (or look like other butterflies that do), which is a warning to hungry predators to stay away. Some are even poisonous.
8. Do butterflies have bones and muscles and skin like we do? A butterfly’s skeleton is not inside their body, but on the outside and is called the exoskeleton. Its like having skin made of bones. They have muscles just like we do, and that’s how they move.
9. How many wings does a butterfly have? A butterfly has four wings. A pair of fore wings in the front and two hind wings in the back. When they fly, their wings move up and down in a figure-eight pattern. A group of butterflies flying together isn’t called a flock — it’s a “flutter!”
10. How do butterflies communicate with each other? Butterflies don’t need to do much communicating. They sometimes move their wings to send a message. And because they can see ultraviolet light, they look for the ultraviolet light patterns on each others wings that identify their species and gender.
Many thanks to Lead Butterfly Curator Anna Estep who provided all of these fun facts!