Butterflies

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< SECTION 1 OF 3 > ButterflY Butterflies are brightly colored flying insects with two pairs of large wings that vary in color and pattern from species to species. Their wings are covered with overlapping rows of tiny scales—a characteristic butterflies share with their fellow lepidopterans, the moths. Like other insects, butterflies have a hard exoskeleton, three pairs of jointed legs, antennae, compound eyes, and three main body parts: head, thorax, and abdomen. On the head are the eyes, antennae, and proboscis— the long, flexible “tongue” used to sip nectar and other liquids. The thorax is the point of attachment for the two pairs of wings, forewings, and hind wings. The abdomen contains the reproductive and other vital organs. How big are butterflies? Butterflies come in a variety of sizes. The world’s smallest known species, the blue pygmy, found in southern California, has a wingspan of just over half an inch. The largest species, New Guinea’s Queen Alexandra’s birdwing, can measure up to twelve inches from wingtip to wingtip. How long do butterflies live? The average lifespan for an adult butterfly is 20 to 40 days. Some species live no longer than three or four days; others may live up to six months. Female butterflies live until they lay eggs, and then die. For more information see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Butterfly Licensed under the CC-BY-SA: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/ PassageBank Passage provided under license from PassageBank.com. Use and duplication is restricted to licensees only. < SECTION 2 OF 2 > What do they eat? A caterpillar’s first meal is its own eggshell. It then spends most of its time eating the leaves of the plant on which it hatched. An adult butterfly uncoils its long, straw-like proboscis to sip nectar from flowers, juice from rotting fruit, and water from puddles. Where do they live? Butterflies are found worldwide, except on the continent of Antarctica. Many species migrate to avoid adverse conditions. Most migrate relatively short distances, but monarchs and several other species migrate thousands of miles. reproduction From egg to adult, butterflies undergo a series of physical transformations known as metamorphosis. After mating, the female butterfly lays her eggs on a caterpillar food or “host” plant. The eggs can hatch within a few days, or within months, or even years, depending on whether or not conditions are right. After hatching, a caterpillar begins to eat the host plant. The caterpillar sheds its skin several times during this stage. It then seeks a sheltered spot, suspends itself by silken threads, and sheds one last time to reveal skin that will harden to form the chrysalis, or pupa. Days, months, or even years later, depending on the species, a fully-developed winged adult emerges from the chrysalis and the cycle begins anew. For more information see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Butterfly Licensed under the CC-BY-SA: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/ PassageBank Passage provided under license from PassageBank.com. Use and duplication is restricted to licensees only. < SECTION 3 OF 3 > Global Warming and Other threats The greatest threats to butterflies are habitat change and loss due to residential, commercial, and agricultural development. Climate change is also threatening species of butterfly. The Edith’s checkerspot butterfly, which ranges from Baja to Canada along the West Coast, has been moving northward and upslope. However, for two subspecies—the Bay and Quino—their progress is blocked by the vast urban landscapes of San Francisco and San Diego, respectively. Both subspecies are now critically imperiled. For more information see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Butterfly Licensed under the CC-BY-SA: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/ PassageBank Passage provided under license from PassageBank.com. Use and duplication is restricted to licensees only.

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