INSECTS - MARC KITAEN ART

FLOWERS and BUTTERFLY BOUNTY

Adult butterflies have large, often brightly coloured wings, and conspicuous, fluttering flight. The group comprises the large superfamily Papilionoidea, along with two smaller groups, the skippers (superfamily Hesperioidea) and the moth-butterflies (superfamily Hedyloidea). Butterfly fossils date to the Palaeocene, about 56 million years ago.

Butterflies have the typical four-stage insect life cycle. Winged adults lay eggs on the food plant on which their larvae, known as caterpillars, will feed. The caterpillars grow, sometimes very rapidly, and when fully developed, pupate in a chrysalis. When metamorphosis is complete, the pupal skin splits, the adult insect climbs out, and after its wings have expanded and dried, it flies off. Some butterflies, especially in the tropics, have several generations in a year, while others have a single generation, and a few in cold locations may take several years to pass through their whole life cycle.

Butterflies are often polymorphic, and many species make use of camouflage, mimicry and aposematism to evade their predators. Some, like the monarch and the painted lady, migrate over long distances. Butterflies are distributed worldwide except Antarctica, totaling some 18,500 species.

Butterfly adults are characterized by their four scale-covered wings. These scales give butterfly wings their colour: they are pigmented with melanins that give them blacks and browns, as well as uric acid derivatives and flavones that give them yellows, but many of the blues, greens, reds and iridescent colours are created by structural coloration produced by the micro-structures of the scales and hairs.

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