Contents > Resources > Introduction to butterflies
Introduction to butterflies
:::: Worldwide ::::
Butterflies are found all over the world. There is approximately 20,000 - 25,000 species worldwide, which live in many different habitats from the beach dunes to the mountains. Some have special relationships with other animals or plants. It is suspected that some New Zealand blue and copper species have some dependency on Ants, but this is yet to be confirmed. But this is known to happen overseas.
:::: Lepidoptera ::::
Butterflies are insects in the order of Lepidoptera. The name Lepidoptera comes from the Greek lepis meaning scale and pteron meaning wing. The wing colours are made up of thousands of these small dust-like scales. If you use a magnifying glass to look at a Butterfly or Moth wing you will see all these scales. So how does this give the butterfly wing structural strength? Well there are veins running through the wings that keep them in shape. It is these veins that scientists use to classify the butterfly or moth into species or sub-order.
:::: The Name - Butterfly ::::
Why are Butterflies called Butterflies? No one seems to really know, but the most plausable explaination is that white and yellow butterflies are common in the rest of the world (New Zealand has no natural white or yellow butterfly until someone brough some 'butterfly eaten' Cabbages to New Zealand which introduced the White Butterfly in 1929-30) and could be described as butter-coloured. In Britain the common answer is because of a bright yellow butterfly called the Brimstone. Which is ironic as most books say it's called Brimstone because it is Brimstone coloured!
:::: Insects ::::
Butterflies are insects, so their bodies are divided into 3 segments, the head, thorax and abdomen. The head has eyes, antennae and proboscis (more commonly known as a feeding tube or tongue). The Thorax has the wings and legs. Finally, the abdomen has the internal organs like digestive system, excretory system, nervous system and sexual organs.
:::: Caterpillars ::::
Larvae have a different body structure to adults. The head has the mouth and eyes. Then there are 3 thorax segments that only have 3 pairs of legs. After this comes the abdomen sections that have 5 pairs of (false) prolegs (1 or 2 pairs on looper caterpillars (no NZ butterfly has looper caterpillars)), which are in the middle and tail end of the caterpillar. There are spiracles (breathing holes) along the side of a caterpillar.