Butterflies are an order of insects. They are also called moths, in Switzerland, they are called summer birds. They live all over the world except Antarctica. There are around 4,000 different species in Central Europe alone.
The body of butterflies has a shell made of chitin. This is a material rich in lime and forms an external skeleton. They have two eyes and two feelers. With the antennae, they can touch, smell, taste, and sometimes even feel the temperature. The mouth is usually a proboscis.
Butterflies have two front and two rear wings. They have a skeleton of veins inside. This skeleton is covered on both sides with thin skin with scales. They can give off a colorful pattern that is always symmetrical. Some butterfly wings show a pattern that looks like large eyes. This is to scare off enemies.
How do butterflies live?
Most butterflies are vegetarian. Many species feed on the nectar of different flowers, but others depend on specific or even a single specific plant. Conversely, there are also flowers that can only be pollinated by butterflies. Their calyx is so deep that only the butterflies can reach down to the nectar with their long proboscis.
When flying from one flower to another, butterflies unintentionally carry pollen with them, just like bees. This is how they fertilize the flowers. The butterflies are therefore important for other animals and plants.
Some butterflies can survive the winter, such as the peacock butterfly or the brimstone butterfly. They remain motionless in hollow trees or any cracks and crevices. However, most butterfly species overwinter as eggs, pupae, or caterpillars.
How do butterflies evolve?
During mating, the female ingests the male’s sperm cells and stores them in a seminal vesicle. Before the female lays her eggs, they are fertilized with them. Even without a male, some female butterflies can lay eggs that can develop. This is called parthenogenesis.
Female butterflies lay anywhere from 20 to 1,000 eggs, depending on the species. Some will glue their eggs to any plant or just drop them on the ground. However, other females stick their eggs to the exact plant that their caterpillars want to eat later. A good example of this is the nettle. The Small Tortoiseshell, the Peacock Butterfly, the Admiral, and the Map cannot feed on any other plant.
After about a week, a caterpillar hatches from each egg. They often have a camouflage color to protect themselves from enemies. Others are brightly colored to make them look poisonous, like the poison dart frogs of the rainforest.
Caterpillars are very voracious. Many farmers and gardeners fight them with poison. Birds, beetles, hedgehogs, wasps, and many other animals eat caterpillars. So often not many of them remain.
Caterpillars molt several times. Then they pupate, meaning they wrap themselves in the thread they make from their spit. With the silkworm, you can unwind this thread and make a fine fabric out of it. In the pupa, the caterpillar sheds its skin for the last time and becomes a butterfly.
Finally, the young butterfly pierces the pupa at a thinner spot intended for it. He unfolds his wings and fills the vein skeleton with blood. This makes it firm and the wings are stable. Some moths only live for a single day. The brimstone butterfly makes it to almost a year.
Are butterflies endangered?
Butterflies are not endangered because of their enemies. However, butterflies need a habitat that suits them well. They’re not very flexible there. The temperatures must not fluctuate too much and the winter must not be too long or too short.
Oak trees are very popular with butterflies. 100 different species of butterfly caterpillar live on it. There are almost as many on poplars and birches. Blackberries, raspberries, and roses are also popular. These butterfly species are not endangered.
It is more difficult for butterfly species that depend on wetlands. Because of agriculture, many swamps and bogs were drained. The butterflies went with them. Fewer butterflies live in heavily fertilized meadows than in a natural meadow.