Getting to know butterflies better
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The metamorphosis of the butterfly
The butterfly in its adult form feeds on flower nectar. It carries pollen from flower to flower, making it a valuable pollinating insect. It can survive in this form from a few days to several months depending on the species.
After mating, the female will go and lay her eggs on her host plant. Indeed, a specimen is often linked to a plant species, which will be the caterpillar's best hiding place and source of food.
At hatching, the caterpillar will start by devouring the egg from which it came. A good source of protein to gain strength! But it needs more to grow and solidify its body, and will quickly attack the leaves of its refuge plant. Your pretty garden can change quickly if a colony of caterpillars sets up in it... The duration of this stage is again very variable depending on the species, ranging from a few weeks to several months.
The caterpillar has now reached its optimal size and is about to undergo another amazing transformation. Skillful with its paws, it makes a chrysalis with the silk it produces, most often the colour of its host plant to remain discreet. It is a cocoon in which it will spend whole weeks sheltered in this plant protection. During this phase, its body and organs will transform radically, until it reaches the last stage of the life of this amazing insect that is the butterfly.
In most butterflies, the wings are covered with tiny coloured scales, stacked like tiles on a roof. On closer inspection, this gives the impression of very fine down.
The word Lepidoptera (the scientific name for butterflies) actually means "scaly wings".
In some places, the density of scales on the wing is very low. This area is almost transparent, as if the butterfly had a window on the wing.
Butterflies are rich in colors!
Butterflies have incredible colors! This is especially true for the day butterflies (Rhopalocera), the night butterflies (Heterocera) being darker.
The famous scales on the wings and their arrangement give the butterflies these colors and shapes sometimes very curious.
These colors which astonish us have however a very precise function for the animal. They are used to hide, to identify other butterflies, to intimidate potential predators, and for many other functions still unknown to researchers.
Some butterflies are even capable of changing colour. This is in any case what our eye perceives, looking at the wing of a Morpho from several angles.
The "nervation" of butterfly wings
All butterflies have two pairs of wings that overlap. The wing is extremely thin, but remains rigid thanks to a network of ribs that radiate from the base of the wings. Each "genus" of butterfly has a particular network of ribs, which is why some butterflies are more resistant than others, and can even move when the wind rises.
Touching a butterfly's wings will not kill it, contrary to popular belief. The ribbed structure of its wings gives it a good strength relative to its size, and the butterfly will be able to continue to fly. It will however leave a coloured dust on your fingertips...