Caterpillar Frequently Asked Questions

What do caterpillars feed on?
Caterpillars feed on specific plants that we refer to as their host plants. Each species of butterflies have their own particular host plants. For example, Monarch caterpillars feed only on Milkweeds. Most caterpillars feed on leaves, but some will also eat the flowers and seeds. The Harverster butterfly caterpillar actually feeds on aphids; it is thought to be the only carnivorous butterfly larva.
 

Chrysalis Frequently Asked Questions

Can butterflies move while they are in the chrysalis stage?
Yes, although they are not mobile. They do have the ability to wiggle and some also make noise as a defense mechanism to frighten away possible predators.
 

Butterfly Frequently Asked Questions

How long do butterflies live?
It depends on the species. Many butterflies live only a few weeks but some migratory butterflies can live many months. Monarchs can live approximately 10 months. Mourning Cloaks, which hibernate during the summer and winter, can live almost a year.


What do butterflies feed on?
Many butterflies drink nectar from flowers, but many butterflies also feed on pollen, rotting fruit, animal dung, carcasses, or tree sap.


How do butterflies eat?
Butterflies have a proboscis, similar to a long tube, that uncoils and coils.  In the center of the proboscis there is a food tube through which the nectar is siphoned.


Can butterflies really taste with their feet?
Yes, there are chemorecepters, cells that can detect particular chemicals, on their feet. Female butterflies will actually scratch leaves to verify they are on the correct host plant to lay her eggs.


Why do some butterflies appear to have 4 legs instead of 6?
These are called brush-footed butterflies. The first pair of legs is greatly reduced in size and only the back four legs are used as functional legs.


Can a butterfly fly after its wings have been touched?

Butterfly wings are covered with tiny scales. Touching their wings cause them to lose scales but they can fly. If too many scales are lost, it will inhibit their flying ability which can make it difficult for them to reach a food source.


Can a butterfly feel pain, for example, if it breaks a wing?
Butterflies have a nervous system but it is different from people. Butterflies lack the special cells that allow people to know they are feeling pain. Butterflies will have a sensation that something is different, but they will not feel pain like a person experiences. An example is if you hold the leg of a butterfly, it will struggle. If you break the leg off, it will stop struggling and fly away. If the butterfly was feeling pain, it would react differently.


Do butterflies have emotions or can they feel a certain way?
No, butterflies do not have emotions. Butterflies react to instinct, a genetic programming that stimulates a physical sensation, these include thirst, hunger, sleep, and sexual reproduction.


Where do butterflies go at night or in the winter if they do not migrate?
Butterflies find small crevices to squeeze into, such as under tree bark, rock crevices, etc. They usually go to "sleep" during that time.


Where do butterflies go when it rains?
Butterflies will hide underneath leaves and plant material or find small crevices to squeeze into, such as under tree bark, rock crevices, etc.


What is the smallest butterfly?

The Western Pygmy Blue, in Africa, has a wingspan of 1/2 inch. The smallest butterfly in the US is the Eastern Pygmy Blue, located in the southern region of the US. Their wingspan is approximately 5/8 inch.


What is the largest butterfly?
The largest butterflies are Birdwings; some of their wingspans can reach up to 12 inches. These butterflies are usually found in New Guinea, Australia, and Asia. The largest butterfly in the US is the Giant Swallowtail; its wingspan can reach up to 6 inches.


Are there more butterflies or moths in the world?
Moths, they outnumber butterflies 16:1.


How many different species of butterflies are there?
In the world there are approximately 28,000 different species. A little more than 725 species in North America north of Mexico. In Ohio, around 135 different species have been recorded.
 

What is the difference between butterflies and moths?
Antennae, butterfly antennae are thicker or clubbed on the tips. Moth antennae are either slender with no thickened areas or plumbed. ( view butterfly and moth antennae)


Do all Monarch butterflies migrate?
No, there are earlier broods in the year that only live for about 3 weeks. It is the fall brood of Monarchs that migrate and return the following spring. There are also Monarchs in Florida that are thought to never migrate.


Do all Monarch butterflies migrate to Mexico?
No, Monarchs west of the Rockies migrate to California. Monarchs east of the Rockies migrate to Mexico. They have recently found that Monarchs in Arizona have been found to go to California or Mexico. There are also Monarchs in Florida that are thought to never migrate.


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