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A butterfly is a mainly day-flying insect of the order Lepidoptera, which includes the butterflies and moths. Like other holometabolous insects, the butterfly's life cycle consists of four parts: egg, larva, pupa and adult. Most species are diurnal. Butterflies have large, often brightly coloured wings, and conspicuous, fluttering flight.
Butterflies comprise the true butterflies (superfamily Papilionoidea), the skippers (superfamily Hesperioidea) and the moth-butterflies (superfamily Hedyloidea). All the many other families within the Lepidoptera are referred to as moths. The earliest known butterfly fossils date to the mid Eocene epoch.
Butterflies exhibit polymorphism, mimicry and aposematism. Some, like the Monarch, will migrate over long distances. Some butterflies have evolved symbiotic and parasitic relationships with social insects such as ants. Some species are pests because in their larval stages they can damage domestic crops or trees; however, some species are agents of pollination of some plants, and caterpillars of a few butterflies (e.g., Harvesters) eat harmful insects. Culturally, butterflies are a popular motif in the visual and literary arts.
Did you know that there are thousands of different species, or types of butterflies all over the world? There are more than 15,000 different types of butterflies that scientists know about today.With so many different types of butterflies out there, scientists need to have a way to keep all of their information organized. They do this by categorizing butterflies into different families. There are six main families of butterflies, and each family has a funny name that is difficult to pronounce. Luckily, scientists also give each family a common name which is much easier to say and is also easier to remember.
Butterflies come in all different shapes, sizes, colors, and patterns. There are thousands of variations that make each one unique. After you learn more about the six families of butterflies, keep an eye out for the types of butterflies flying around your backyard.
The first family of butterflies is called Hesperiidae, but butterflies in this group are more commonly known as skippers or darts. These types of butterflies got their nickname because they often perform a darting or skipping movement while they are flying. Some skippers are brightly colored, while others are brown and plain. Skippers’ antennae are spread apart widely and they also have big eyes. Sometimes they are even mistaken for moths. One skipper, called the Regent Skipper, has a look that sets it apart from other skippers.
The second family of butterflies is called Papilionidae, and are also known as swallowtails. Swallowtails get this name because their back wings have small extensions that look like tails. These butterflies are noticed for their large and colorful wings. The Black Swallowtail is so common in North America that you have probably already seen one in your backyard.
Pieridaes are a third family of butterflies, known as the whites or the Suphurs, because many of these butterflies are white or yellow. Some of these butterflies use their wings to reflect the sunlight in patterns that attract mates. The California dogface butterfly fits into this family, and it also happens to be the official insect for the state of California. These butterflies got the nickname dogface because the pattern on the wings of a male looks similar to the face of a dog.
A fourth family of butterflies, the Lycaenidae, includes butterflies more commonly called gossamer-winged. Other names for these butterflies are hairstreaks, coppers or blues. They are small in size, but big on beauty, with wings tipped in vivid blue or copper coloring.
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