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Butterfly Insect

Last updated date: 01st Mar 2024
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In the kingdom of Animalia, the butterfly is the most well-known insect. It's a non-harmful and human-friendly insect. The butterfly is a flying insect that belongs to the group of Lepidoptera. Moths are also defined in this group. In the Greek language, the word Lepidoptera belongs to scaly wings.

Nearly 20000 species of butterflies live in this world. Thousands of tiny scales are overlapped in rows that cover the wings of butterflies. And this gives the butterflies a more attractive look. Also, you can find different types of designs and colours in every butterfly.

Though butterflies have a unique design, they all have six legs and three main body parts, which is the head( the upper body part), thorax( chest or middle body part)and abdomen(tail end or last body part). Also, their bodies are combined with two antennae and an exoskeleton. The ability to coil up their proboscis makes butterflies different from other insects.


The butterfly is one of the most common and familiar insects to humans. There are almost 20,000 species of butterflies in the world. Butterflies are insects from the order Lepidoptera, which also include moths. They are the flying insects with large scaly wings and they have six jointed legs and three body parts: head, thorax, and the abdomen like all other insects. The wings of the butterflies are attached to the thorax and also they have a pair of antennae, compound eyes and an exoskeleton.Butterfly scientific name is Rhopalocera.

Life Cycle of a Butterfly

The life cycle of a butterfly can be discussed in four stages in detail. All the butterflies have complete metamorphosis. To grow into an adult, they go through four stages - egg, larva, pupa, and adult. Every stage has different goals to achieve like caterpillars need to eat a lot and adults need to reproduce. The life cycle of the butterfly may depend on the type of butterfly, it might take from a month to a whole year.

Metamorphosis is the process where butterflies' life cycle depends on.

Metamorphosis, which means transformation or change in shape, is a very lengthy process. There are two types of metamorphosis, first complete metamorphosis and second incomplete metamorphosis.

Some common insects like dragonflies and cockroaches go through incomplete metamorphosis. But insects like butterflies and moths go through the complete metamorphosis process. The butterflies' life cycle is divided into four parts: egg, larva, pupa, and adult.

  • First Stage: Egg

The first stage of the butterfly is the egg from where a butterfly starts its life. The different types of eggs are small, round, oval, or cylindrical. The shape of the egg depends on the type of butterfly. The special thing about butterfly eggs is that you can see the tiny caterpillar growing inside of it. If you look closely, especially at monarch caterpillars. The eggs of the butterfly are usually laid on the leaves of plants.

First, the female butterflies laid eggs on plants. By the time these plants are changed into foods for the newborn larva. Spring and summer are the best time or climates to lay eggs for female butterflies. It also varies on the species of that female butterfly. Female butterflies could lay a vast number of eggs at one time. But in the end, some of them can survive. In size and shape, butterfly eggs are tiny.

  • Second Stage: Caterpillar, The Larva

The larva is the next stage. It is also named a caterpillar. The main thing that caterpillars do is eat. Larvas stored this food for the future and used it to get an adult. At that time, it grows up, splits its skin, and sheds it four 4 to 5 times.  It grows up to 100 times on this stage. Also, the larva size grows up to 2 inches long in several weeks.

The second stage of the butterfly life cycle is the larva. Butterfly larva is one which is called a caterpillar, the butterfly does not remain in this stage for a long time, in this stage all they do is to eat. An egg of the butterfly once hatched, the caterpillar will start to do his work to eat the leaf they were born on. So, it is very important for mother butterflies to lay an egg on the leaf which caterpillars can eat.

 The different caterpillars eat different types of leaves, so, it is very important to lay an egg on the kind of leaf the caterpillar prefers to eat because the caterpillar cannot travel to a new plant. The main purpose of the caterpillar is to eat as much as it can and grow quickly. When the caterpillar is born, it is extremely small and when they start eating, they start growing and expanding instantly. 

  • Third Stage: Pupa, The Transition Stage

The third stage of the butterfly is the pupa. It is one of the coolest stages of butterfly life. Once the caterpillar is grown fully to its full length and weight, they form themselves into a pupa, also known as a chrysalis. Caterpillars change rapidly inside of the pupa, their remarkable transformation called metamorphosis. In this transformation, the caterpillar is transformed into a butterfly by changing tissue, limbs and organs of the caterpillar.

Caterpillars stop eating after being grown. Now it's transformed into a pupa. The pupa of butterflies is known as a chrysalis. A cocoon of silk covers the pupa. This stage can take more than a week or a month. These original larva cells provide lots of energy to the growing adult cells at this stage.

  • Fourth Stage: Adult, The Reproductive Stage

The fourth stage is the final stage of the butterfly known as an adult butterfly. Once all the transformation is done inside the pupa. A person has to be very lucky to see an adult butterfly emerging out. The adult stage is the final stage of the butterfly life cycle. In this stage, the larva gets more extensive and has a pair of giant wings for the fly. But after this stage the butterfly can't grow.

 The main job of the butterfly is to mate and lay eggs. At this stage, some butterflies can eat nectar from flowers, but some cannot. Most of the adults' butterfly live for one or two weeks. Some of them can hibernate in winter and live more days.When the butterfly first emerges from the pupa, both of the wings are soft and folded against its body. So, all the body parts fit into the pupa.

Butterfly Classification 

  • The scientific classification of the butterfly is as follows – 

  • Kingdom – Animalia

  • Phylum – Arthropoda

  • Class - Insecta 

  • Order – Lepidoptera

  • Suborder - Rhopalocera 

  •  Further, it is divided into superfamilies 

  •  Superfamily – Hedyloidea

  • Family – Hedylidae

  • Superfamily – Papilionoidea

  • Families - Hesperiidae, Lycaenidae, Nymphalidae, Papilionidae, Pieridae, Riodinidae.

Types of Butterflies

Classification is done considering butterfly species and families scientifically but they can also be divided based on their habitat. Now let us see some of the butterfly types based on their family.

  • Hedylidae: 

These are commonly known as American moth butterflies. They are small, brown like geometrid moths and their abdomen is not clubbed with the long slim abdomen.

  • Hesperiidae: 

 These are commonly known as skippers. They are small and darting flights and they have clubbed on antennas hooked backwards.

  • Lycaenidae: 

These are commonly known as blues, coppers and hairstreaks. They are small, brightly coloured; often have false heads with eyespots and small tails resembling antennae.

  • Nymphalidae:

 They are commonly known as brush-footed or four-footed butterflies. It usually has reduced forelegs, so they appear four-legged and they are often bright in colour.

  • Papilionidae: 

They are commonly known as the swallowtail. It often has 'tails' on wings; caterpillars generate foul taste with osmeterium organ; pupa supported by a silk girdle.

  • Pieridae: 

They are commonly known as whites and allies and they are mostly white, yellow or orange; some serious pests of Brassica; pupa supported by a silk girdle.

  • Riodinidae: 

They are commonly known as metal marked butterflies because they have a metallic spot on their wing. They are often conspicuously coloured with black, orange and blue.

Types of Butterflies Based on Their Habitat:

  • Grassland Butterflies: They are commonly found in meadows and around flower gardens. These butterflies are bright in colour and they are attracted to the plentiful flowers. Some of the common types of grassland butterflies are Regal Fritillary, Monarchs, Crescentspot, Viceroy.

  • Woodland Butterflies: They are often less coloured compared to the grassland butterflies. There are more types of butterflies found in this habitat than any other because of the availability of a large variety of food sources. Some of the examples are Acadian Hairstreak, Pine Butterfly, Comma Butterfly, Map Butterfly.

  • Mountain Butterflies: There are a large variety of butterflies that stay in the mountain and even in the arctic tundra. Butterflies get hostile in hot summer and cold nights. These are often darker in colour which helps them to absorb heat from the weak arctic sum more easily.  Some of the examples of Mountain butterflies are Moorland Clouded Yellow, Piedmont Ringlet, Arctic Fritillary, Northern Blue, Creamy Marblewing.

  • Coastal Butterflies: Those who prefer to live in salt marshes, canals and coastal regions of North America. Some of the examples of coastal butterflies are Falcate Orangetip, Red Admiral, Green Hairstreak, Sleepy Orange butterfly.

  • Exotic Butterflies: They are most uniquely patterned butterflies and they are brightly coloured and they live near tropical areas of the equator. They are decorated with more colours like pink, bright green, and purple. Due to favourable conditions, you can find more butterflies in this habitat compared to others. Some of them are Isabella, Blue Morpho, Southern Dogface, 88 Butterfly, and Glasswing Butterfly.


What Does Butterfly Eat?

Most adult butterflies drink nectar from the flower with the help of the tongue. It functions just like straw to suck the nectar. Some of the butterflies never go to flower, instead, they have their food from tree sap, rotting animal matter and other organic materials. Butterfly caterpillars grow by eating mainly plant leaves.

Butterfly Characteristics

Some of the general characteristics of the butterflies are –

  • They have two pairs of membranous (transparent) wings that are covered with tiny scales which give colour, rigidity, and strength.

  • It consists of large compound eyes having many light-sensitive lenses, both the eyes have their own refractive system and each form its own portion of the image.

  •  It generally has a clavated antenna and sometimes it can even have a clubbed antenna.

  • Mouthparts are formed like a sucking tube known as proboscis by elongation of galeae.

Facts about Butterflies

Some of the facts about butterflies are discussed below – 

  • The wings of the butterfly are transparent but they are filled with multitude miniature scales and these scales fill colour to the wings.

  • There are almost 20,000 various types of butterflies of various species. 

  • Butterflies use their feet to taste.

  • The butterflies live only for a few weeks, as the lifespan of an adult butterfly on average is three to four weeks.

  • The most common butterfly in the US is the cabbage white butterfly.

  • One of the largest butterflies is a giant swallowtail butterfly.

  • Butterflies have a liquid diet.

  • Butterflies actually have four wings, not two.

  •  Butterfly wings help them against predators, either by defence mechanisms or frightening the predators with the colour spectrum.


After going through butterfly information related to the life of a butterfly, characteristics, classification, and different types of butterflies based on their families and habitat, it would be easy to answer any questions related to butterflies like, what is a butterfly? Or any other questions related to butterflies. In this article, it is also mentioned about the interesting facts about butterflies.

FAQs on Butterfly Insect

1. What Does Butterfly Symbolize?

Butterflies are deep and powerful representations of life, as they are not only beautiful but also they have a mystery. Butterflies are metaphors for representing spiritual rebirth, transformation, change, hope and life. Butterflies symbolism messengers from the realms of spirit and they are also a symbol of celebrations, weddings, life and our journey. 

2. Who Eats a Butterfly?

Butterflies are eaten by their predators. Some of the common predators of the butterfly are wasps, parasitic flies, birds, snakes, toads, rats, lizards, dragonflies, and sometimes even monkeys eat them. Predators who constantly eat butterflies are frogs and spiders. These predators eat butterflies in different forms like butterflies, eggs, caterpillars, and adult butterflies.

3. Do Butterflies Bite?

No, the majority of butterflies do not bite. Butterflies do not possess biting mouthparts that are able to sink into any prey as butterfly mouthparts are long and tubular in shape, called a proboscis. And it is designed for sucking the nectar out of flowers.

4. Where Do Butterflies Live?

When it comes to a particular place where butterflies live, there is no simple answer to this question because butterflies live everywhere. Before answering the question, we must consider the season of the year and species of the butterflies. Actually, butterflies are cold-blooded animals so any cold or warm place will be best for their living. Finally, it also depends on the availability of food and the area where predators are less likely to attack.

5. Which are Butterfly Nectar Plants?

Some of the butterfly nectar plants are Blue cardinal flower, Butterfly bush, Bloodflower, Delphinium, Cosmos, Lantana, Oriental Lilies, Phlox, Privet, Wild Bergamot. If someone is planning to make the garden to attract, retain, and encourage the population of butterflies, nectar-producing plants can be planted to achieve the goals and those flowers bloom throughout the year. This will attract new butterflies to visit the garden.