Butterfly Fun Facts/General Facts

Butterfly Fun Facts

1.     How many butterflies are native to Pennsylvania?

              Answer:  Approximately 64

2.     A cool way to refer to butterflies is?

              Answer:  “Leps”

3.     Which state, Alaska or Hawaii has more species of butterflies?

              Answer:  Alaska

4.     How many species of butterflies are in the US and Canada?

              Answer:  Approx 780

5.     What is a caterpillar’s first food?

              Answer:  Usually his egg shell

6.     Water will not damage the wings of a butterfly.

7.     What is the greatest threat to butterflies in the US?

              Answer:  Urban Sprawl

8.     What are Butterflies favorite colors from greatest to least?

              Answer:  Purple or Yellow, White or Blue and then Red.

9.     Will a butterfly die if you touch their wings?

              Answer:  Some scales may come off, but the butterfly will not

                                 die from the loss of scales.  Only handle when necessary.

10. How fast can a butterfly fly?

              Answer:  Approximately 12 miles per hour

11. How fast can some moths fly?

              Answer:  Approximately 25 miles per hour

12. What is the only continent on which no Lepidoptera have been found?

              Answer:  Antarctica

13. Most insects are beneficial to people because they eat other insects, pollinate crops, and are food for other animals, make products we use (like honey and silk) or have medical uses.

14. During the time from hatching to pupation, a caterpillar increases its body size by how many times?

              Answer:  More than 30,000 times

15. What is the size of the smallest butterfly?

              Answer:  Tiny 1/8 of an inch

16. What is the size of the largest butterfly?

              Answer:  Almost 12 inches

17. Adult butterflies may eat what five things?

              Answer:  Nectar, rotting fruit, tree sap, animal carcasses,

                                and mud puddles.

18. What colors can Butterflies see?

              Answer:  Red, green, and yellow

19. How many species of butterflies are there?

              Answer:  Approximately 24,000

20. How many species of moths are there?

              Answer:  Approximately 140,000


General Life Cycle

1.     Butterflies go through a complete metamorphosis.

2.     A complete metamorphosis has four phases: egg or ova, caterpillar or larva, chrysalis or pupae, & adult butterfly

3.     Eggs hatch in 3 to 4 days depending on temperature.

4.     A caterpillar’s first meal is usually their egg shell.

5.     The caterpillar stage lasts for 14 to 18 days.

6.     Caterpillar’s skin does not grow.  When their skin is tight, they shed it for a new one.  They shed 5 times.

7.     The chrysalis stage last for 8 to 16 days.

8.     The length of the stage (egg, caterpillar, chrysalis) depends on temperature. The warmer the temperature, the shorter the stage.

9.     Most butterflies live 2 to 6 weeks.

10. Some species over winter as a larvae, pupae or adult.


General Anatomy

1.     When a butterfly first hatches, its wings are completely wrinkled and wet.

2.     Butterflies smell with their antennae,

3.     They breathe through holes on their abdomen called spiracles.

4.     Butterflies have 6 legs.

5.     They taste with their feet.

6.     Butterflies have a compound eye that allows them to see all different directions.

7.     Butterflies eat through a straw-like tube called a proboscis.

8.     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.



1.     Monarch butterflies can lay between 400 and 600 eggs.

2.     The eggs are small, yellow and oval.

3.     Monarch caterpillars can grow to be 2 inches long.

4.     The final time a monarch caterpillar splits his skin is when he is ready to make a chrysalis.

5.     A Monarch chrysalis is green with gold on the outside.

6.     Monarch butterflies live 2 to 6 weeks, except when they enter Diapause (sexually inactive) – they will live 6-8 months.

7.     Western Monarchs migrate to Southern California.

8.     Eastern Monarchs migrate to the mountains of Mexico in the fall and return north beginning in January.

9.     Eastern Monarchs can migrate about 3,000 miles.

10. The host plant for Monarch caterpillars is Milkweed (Asclepias family). Some varieties are curassivica, tuberosa, incarnata and common.

11. Male Monarchs have thinner veins, scent spots on their hind wings, and claspers on the rear of the abdomen.

12. Female Monarchs have wider veins, no scent spots on the rear wings, and a horizontal slot near the end of the abdomen.


Eastern Black Swallowtails

1.     Host plants for EBS include dill, parsley, fennel, rue & Queen Anne’s Lace (wild carrot).

2.     Young caterpillars look like bird droppings as a defense mechanism.

3.     As caterpillars age and shed their skin, they become green with stripes.

4.     If an EBS caterpillar feels threatened, a bright orange Y-shaped organ called the osmeterium comes out of the head as a warning to predators.

5.     The osmeterium produces a chemical secretion containing terpenes which are foul smelling and serve as a further deterent for predators.


Painted Ladies

  1. Host plants include thistle, burdock and hollyhock.
  2. Eggs are extremely tiny and an aqua-blue color.
  3. It is extremely difficult to determine if a PL is male or female.


 Mourning Cloak

1.     Host plants include willows, elms and poplars.

2.     Adult butterflies like sap, rotting fruit, mud and dung.

3.     These butterflies can over winter as adults.

4.     Female lays her eggs all together in one location.

5.     The caterpillars are communal until the last instar.

6.     Butterflies look fuzzy on the wings and body.