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A butterfly is a flying insect of the order Lepidoptera, usually with striking colours and patterns on its wings. Butterflies live on pollen and nectar from flowers. An erroneous etymology claims that the word butterfly came from a shift of letters in "flutterby"; however, the old English word was buttorfleoge and a similar word occurs in Dutch, apparently because butterflies were thought to steal milk.

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Four stages in the lifecycle of a butterfly


Butterfly eggs consist of a hard ridged outer layer of shell, called the chorion, lined with a thin coating of wax which prevents the egg from drying out before the larva has fully developed. Each egg has a number of tiny funnel-shaped openings at one end, called micropyles. The purpose of the holes is allow sperm to enter and to fertilize the egg. Butterfly and moth eggs vary greatly in size between species, but they are all spherical or ovate.


Larvae are multilegged eating machines. They live on plant leaves and spend practically all their time eating. As they grow they shed their skin several times.

See caterpillar for more information.


When the larva has eaten enough it will will either spin a coccoon or form a chrysalis[?]. The larva usually moves to the underside of a leaf. To form a coccoon it spins a silk-like thread around itself. A chrysalis is formed by hardening bodily secretions. A larva completely covered by a coccoon or chrysalis is called a pupa. Inside its protective shell the larva will transform into a butterfly (or moth).


A butterfly has six legs, unlike the larva. After it emerges from its pupal stage it can not fly for some time because it's wings have not unfolded yet. A newly emerged butterfly needs to spend some time 'inflating' its wings with blood and letting them dry, during which time it is extremely vulnerable to predators.

Many species of butterfly are sexually dimorphic. Some butterflies, such as the Monarch butterfly are migratory.

Butterflies are often confused with moths, but there are a few simple differences between them, including colour, habits and pupating appearance. See The difference between butterflies and moths here.

Survival Butterflies (and their stages) have many natural enemies such as:


Ants will sometimes attack a larva in hordes. However, there are actually some species of ants that keep Myrmecophilous (ant loving) butterfly larvae as cattle, taking a larva into their nest, feeding it leaves on one end and milking it for honeydew[?] on the other. This symbiotic relationship can turn to the larvae becoming Myrmecophageous (ant-eating). The ants actually tolerate the larvae, while they eat the ant pupae.


Some butterflies have evolved 'eye' like drawings on their wings, scaring off some birds. Also, since some birds attack the eyes of an animal first, the butterfly has a chance of escaping in the confusion when the bird simply pokes a hole in one of the wings.

The butterfly stroke[?] is also a swimming stroke.

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