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Butterfly Trivia

by Gardening123 Staff

This month we've put together some great facts about butterflies that will amaze you.

Did you know...

Butterflies add color and beauty to any garden.
  • There are close to 750 known species of butterflies in the United States and 17,500 species in the world.

  • The oldest butterfly fossil ever found was in England and is estimated to be 190 million years old.

  • Some fast-flying butterflies can travel 30 miles per hour or faster.

    • Butterfly wings are actually thousands of tiny scales. These scales are made out of chitin, which is the same kind of protein that makes-up their outside bodies.

    • Some butterflies drink nectar from flowers using a long nose or proboscis that works kind of like an elephant’s trunk. When not using it to suck nectar, butterflies curl their proboscis like the noisemakers you sometimes get at birthday parties.

    • Butterflies are capable of “tasting” nectar through their larsi or “feet” in a way very similar to how humans taste things with their tongues. When the larsi come in contact with a sweet liquid such as nectar, it causes the butterfly’s proboscis to uncurl.

    • There are more than 20 butterflies listed as being endangered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. If something isn’t done to protect these butterflies they could become extinct.

    • The Cabbage White is the most common type of butterfly in the United States.

    The Tiger Swallowtail has colorful "tails" on its hindwings.
    • The largest butterfly in the world is the female Queen Alexander Birdwing in New Guinea. It has a wingspan of 12 and half inches. That’s a little longer than a ruler.

    • The second largest is the Goliath Birdwing butterfly in Indonesia. Its wingspan can grow to be 11 inches.

    • The Dwarf Blue in South Africa is the smallest butterfly in the world with a wingspan of half an inch. That would be about the same width as the eraser on a new pencil!

    • The smallest butterfly in the United States is the Pygmy Blue found in the West.

    • Unlike most butterflies, the Mourning Cloak can survive through the winter by building up body chemicals that are similar to the antifreeze you put in your car.

    • Some Painted Lady butterflies migrate over 3,000 miles from Africa to England every year.

    • 15 different states in the U.S. have a species of butterfly as their state insect.

    The Monarch is one of the few buttterflies in the U.S. that migrates.
  • The word butterfly comes from the Anglo-Saxon word ‘butterfloege’. The Anglo-Saxons used this word because the most common butterfly in their country was the Yellow Brimstone.

  • Some Native American tribes believed that butterflies brought dreams to people at night when they were asleep. Other ancient
  • tribes believed that butterflies were actually the souls of people who had died. The Aztecs considered smelling flowers from the top to be very rude because this area was reserved for the souls of the dead.

    • Early settlers who came to America from Europe claimed that butterflies were actually witches that stole butter and milk when no one was looking.

    • In some countries, the word for butterfly means ‘licker of milk’ or ‘milk thief’. In France, the word for butterfly is ‘papillion’ which is also French for parking ticket. This is because parking tickets in France are big pieces of yellow paper that flap in the wind like a butterfly when they are left under a windshield wiper. In Russia, the word for butterfly is ‘babochka’ which means 'little soul'.

    • The scientific name for butterflies is Lepidoptera, which means 'scale-winged'.


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