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The butterfly is among the most beautiful of all insects and their beauty and grace have inspired artists throughout time. They are a symbol of change, joy, and color. The four delicate wings of a butterfly are covered with colorful scales in nearly every color imaginable. You may have heard that if you touch a butterfly’s wing that it will not be able to fly or may even die. While you may rub off some of the scales, it will still be able to fly. But you should always be gentle when handling a butterfly.

Butterflies change four times in their lives. They start out as an egg and soon hatch into a caterpillar. The caterpillar eats constantly, grows, and sheds its skin several times. After the caterpillar has grown several thousand times its original size it becomes a pupa or chrysalis. When the chrysalis breaks open out comes the butterfly! All these changes are called metamorphosis.

Both butterflies and moths belong to the group of insects called Lepidoptera. While they might look alike, there several ways you can tell them apart. Moths usually fly at night and butterflies during the day. The antenna of a butterfly is long and slender with a knob at the top. The moth’s antenna can be many shapes and are often feathered. A moth’s body is fat and furry and a butterfly’s body is hairless and slender.

Did you know?

  • Scientists estimate that there are 28,000 species of butterflies throughout the world

  • Butterflies range in size from a tiny 1/8 inch (Western Pygmy Blue Butterfly) to a huge almost 12 inches (Queen Alexandra’s Birdwing)

  • Butterflies and moths use their antenna to smell and they taste food with their feet!

  • Adult butterflies do not go the bathroom.

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Want to enjoy these beautiful insects up close? Visit the Costa Rica Glasshouse at the Cleveland Botanical Gardens to watch hundreds of butterflies and see a live butterfly release.

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