Butterflies are beautiful insects with large scaly colorful wings that are of great attraction to all individuals and especially kids. These beautifully winged creatures fly around the garden adding a touch of beauty to your lawn. Butterflies are insects in the macro lepidopteran clad which includes some species of moth as well. They are in the same order of moths and their lifecycle is very similar to moths. Butterflies are a pretty good pest that can be grown from the caterpillar stage and is most liked by small kids because of their colorful designs. These colorful wings are contributed by their scales which covers the butterfly wings. Like all other insects, this colorful insect has three body parts, the head, thorax and the abdomen and three-jointed legs.
The body form of a butterfly is so beautiful that is incomparable to any other creature in the world. The beautiful compound eyes, antenna (proboscis) and attractive wings make it as the most beautiful and interesting creature among the insect family. Most interesting feature about this insect is, butterflies can taste with their feet. They taste the leaves to ensure whether they are good enough to deposit their eggs. This is a quite astonishing characteristic of judging the quality of the egg laying place before it lays the eggs.
You can even call this insect as the most intuitive insect. Butterflies feed on the nectar of the flowers using their antenna also known as a proboscis. They are tube-like feeding structure of the butterfly which is protruding from its head. It acts like a straw to suck their food from the source. They not only eat nectar rather drink rain droplet, rotting fruit and tear from large animals like cows. You could have also seen butterflies on carcasses and dead things.
Lifecycle of Butterfly
As advanced insects, butterflies and moths have a complete lifecycle. The lifecycle of the butterfly includes a process called metamorphosis. Metamorphosis is a biological process in which the creature undergoes four processes of transformation before they become an adult. Like humans, who undergo changes in the appearance as they grow like puberty, reproduction, aging and death similarly these little insects have this metamorphosis stage.
During this process, the animal or the insect undergoes an extreme rapid transformation in their physical form, structure, and substance. When the immature insects and adults have different forms and undergo the complete distinct stages then it is called complete metamorphosis whereas some insects undergo only three distinct stages of transformation namely the egg, nymph, and adult. Each stage serves with a different purpose and each has their own goal before their lifecycle gets complete.
Stages of Butterfly Lifecycle
The lifecycle of the butterfly starts with the egg. The female butterfly lays a number of eggs although they have a very short lifetime. However not all eggs are fertilized to become an embryo, some eggs don't. The egg may be tiny, oval or cylindrical objects (comes in different shapes) which is usually attached to the plant with a fast drying glue like a chemical. To safeguard and protect the eggs, the butterfly uses an adhesive that makes the egg stick to the plant leaf. One of the coolest facts about the butterfly eggs is, when you look closely at their eggs, you can see the caterpillar growing inside. It has a transparent kind of feature.
When the butterfly egg hatches, the caterpillar comes out of the eggshell. Before hatching (when the caterpillar is inside the shell) an imaginal disc of body parts grows which will completely develop before the beginning of the adult stage. The second stage of their lifecycle is the caterpillar stage.
Caterpillar – Feeding Stage
The caterpillar stage also refers as larvae stage lasts for two weeks to a month. This is the most important stage and also considered as the most beautiful stage in the lifecycle of the butterfly because the caterpillar makes the chrysalis (pupation stage). The caterpillar will be inside the chrysalis, they grow inside the chrysalis until it becomes an adult. Chrysalis is the process of shedding their outside layer of the skin. The caterpillar looks like a long worm with stripes or patches on their body with hairy structure.
When the caterpillar is small, it feeds on everything (host plants) like thistle or hollyhock for their growth. You can find most caterpillars munching happily on plant leaves. Caterpillars feed on only selective types of plants depending on the species. When you grow caterpillar as pests and if it is not feeding properly, you can feed them food in a glass of water or placing the leaves on the tray. The caterpillar is now an inch long and starts having spots on their body. Caterpillars, for growing into a butterfly digest its enzymes which are triggered by hormones.
Pupa – Transition Stage
Now the caterpillar is already into the third stage of their lifecycle mainly the pupal stage. The pupa stage of the butterfly is the time for the complete change. The stages take about ten to fourteen days to complete their lifecycle. In some types of species, it will take even a month's time to get complete. The insect does not eat anything during this stage. The transparency of the body structure which was noticed during the larvae stages gradually decreases as their cuticle begins to harden. To begin with the chrysalis stage, the caterpillar moves to a safe spot and attach itself using some form of silk-like structure. The caterpillar spins a chrysalis to protect them against the predators before it turns into a pupa.
These chrysalides are green colored so it appears almost like leaves so it is not often noticed by their predators. People often get confused between cocoon and chrysalis during the pupal stage. Caterpillar of the butterflies builds chrysalis while caterpillars of the moth spin cocoon. During the pupal stage, the insect structures are formed with the wings and the nervous system.
Adult Butterfly – Reproduction Stage
When the adult butterfly fully grows, they break open from the cocoon and the lifecycle becomes complete. The wingspan of the adult butterfly is about 3.75 to 4.75 inches long. This is the flying stage of the insect and also the stage of its reproduction. The body of the adult butterfly is divided into head, thorax, and abdomen. The head segment constitutes a pair of compound eyes, antenna, palpi, and proboscis. With the help of the compound eyes, butterflies sense lights and images. The insect smells with their antenna and taste with their proboscis. The proboscis is usually in curled position when not in use.
The second segment of the butterfly's body part is the thorax. The thorax is made up of three segments and each segment constitutes a pair of legs. Apart from the first segment, the second and third segment of the thorax has a pair of wings attached to it. They have two forewings and two hind wings. The most dramatic feature about the butterfly is its wings. They are very thin and transparent and has many veins like structures. When not in use, butterfly wings fold together in a vertical fashion. Strong muscles in the thorax help the wings move up and down.
The last body part of the butterfly is the abdomen. The abdomen contains the digestive system, breathing tubes, heart and reproductive organs. Butterflies mates through sexual reproduction. The male butterflies are attracted towards the female butterflies when the adult female releases sex hormones known as pheromones. The pheromone receptors are short thin walled pegs that are located on the antenna of the female butterfly.
Benefits of Butterfly Garden to Environment
Butterflies are not only a special beauty to nature looking gorgeous rather there is a number of beneficial aspects to the environment. Besides, it can even improve the economy by attracting the tourists. They collectively provide a range of environmental benefits which includes pollination and natural pest control. Although the caterpillar stage of the butterfly is quite damaging to the host plant, apparently the adult stage compensates for its damages.
- Conservation of the resources
Butterflies is responsible for the growth of many plant species which cannot be sometimes achieved with human efforts. Therefore it is necessary to conserve this habitat and help them to multiply. One of the species of butterfly is the monarch butterflies. They lay eggs only on a milkweed plant, so plants this kind of plants help the generation of the monarch butterfly which is the king of the insect world grow and survive.
- Pest Control
These insects are most beneficial to human by keeping the pest infestation under control. These beauty insects used to control pests at soil level that includes ants, woodlice, earwigs and many more. Some of the weird pests can be kept under control with the help of these insects.
- Providing food for other animals
Butterflies are lower order organism in the eco-system. As part of the food chain, they serve as a tasty snack for birds and bats. They are the most important members of the food chain becoming a pleasant meal for a number of insects and birds. Unless they are in good number, the population of the birds and other insects which is dependent on butterflies as their source of food ultimately diminishes. These insects are responsible for the growth and reproduction of wildlife habitats. Therefore it is immensely important to conserve this resources and establish a balance in the food chain. These insects are very sensitive to climate changes and habitat loss so it requires ideal conditions for their eggs to get mature.
There are a few ways with which you can save butterflies and their habitat
- Don’t use pesticides in your garden
We know that certain pesticides are harmful to bees, apparently, these pesticides can be harmful to butterflies too. In many instances, pesticides which are sprinkled or sprayed in your lawn are often drifted to the ditches which are absorbed by the wildflowers. Butterflies when sucking nectar from these flowers ultimately dies and this, in turn, affects the population of the monarch butterflies.
- Avoid genetically engineered foods
Genetically manufactured crops are not only harmful to nature rather affects a lot of insect species. These crops are introduced in agriculture to produce a new trait to the plant which doesn’t occur naturally. One of the insects that are widely affected due to genetically engineered crops is the king of the insects, the monarch butterfly. A US study says monarch butterflies are threatened by GM crops. Insects unknowingly eat these crops and get killed.
- Plant Native Milkweed
Monarch butterflies cannot regenerate in the absence in the milkweed plants because the adult lays the eggs on this plant leaves and similarly caterpillars of these species eat only the leaves of the milkweed. There are many pieces of evidence that prove that larger species of monarchs migrated to Mexico due to the destruction of the milkweed plants in many parts of North America. Apparently planting milkweed is one of the easiest ways to increase the population of the monarchs and to save their species.
- Creating a Monarch way Station
This approach began to compensate for the loss of milkweed plants in many parts of the United States. The monarch way station is designed to enable you to create a food and habitat suitable for monarch butterflies that have a struggling population. You can create a monarch way station as a small part of your herb garden or a section in the vegetable garden. When the monarchs catch the glimpse of the monarch way station, they lay their eggs in the milkweed plants. This will enable you an opportunity to witness the beautiful and gorgeous caterpillars arrive in your own garden.
Butterflies and Pollination
When you mention pollinators to people, the immediate answer that comes to mind is bees and butterflies. Butterflies are pollinating insects, perhaps the well-known pollinating insect. For a vast majority of plants today (about 1000 species out of 1350 species), pollination is necessary for their reproduction to produce fruits and flowers. Pollination is a very important part in the lifecycle of the plants which are usually carried out by insects, birds and of course wind is also a factor in carrying out pollination process. But what is pollination?
Pollination in a nutshell defined as the act of transferring pollen grains from the male anther of the flower to the female stigma. This process enables the plants to bear fruits and seeds. When the pollination happens between the same plants, then it is called self-pollination however when pollination takes between plants of two different species or flowers of a different plant of the same species, then it is referred as cross-pollination.
- How butterflies pollinate flowers
When the butterflies land on the flower to suck nectars, the pollen grains of the flowers get stuck to the hairs and abdomen of the insect. When these pretty looking insects go to another flower for gathering nectars, the pollens that are stuck to their hairs and abdomen are detached to the new species flower. This results in cross-pollination. They pollinate in small areas and are very good at whatever they do.
Butterflies have the potential to cover long insects and hence can make their contribution to a wide coverage area. This ensures that cross-pollination is effective with a good mix of genres. Researches show that pollens that are stuck to the butterfly's tongue stay fresh so there are increased possibilities of valuable pollination at a distance. This approach encourages wild variation of species in the garden.
- Creating a wildlife - friendly habitat garden
When people talk about natural habitat for wild-life they generally consider doing in a countryside, apparently this is possible in all types of the area provided you put in some extra effort.
This can be done by planting a native species plant if you lack one. By doing so, you can invite many wild-life insects like honey bees, beetles, butterflies to start their lifecycle in your own garden.
You can make your garden pollinator friendly, monarch-friendly to create habitat and begin restoring your happiness. These insects are beautiful to watch, particularly the monarch butterflies and other species of butterflies that fly around your garden flapping their colorful wings.
You need to reduce your lawn because bigger lawns are hard to maintain and are easily infested with harmful pests like gypsy moths, bagworms, and many other insects. This will, in turn, lead to the usage of pesticides and other control measures to invade the pests or keep their population in control. Eventually, these modes of control measure not only destroy the pest rather kill these beneficial insects as well.
Lawns should be manicured to attract native insects and migratory birds. You can make your lawn look attractive with bright colored plants that have rich nectars in it to attract the butterflies.
Although butterflies cannot see their wings, everyone sees it and admire its beauty. Fall is the season for butterflies so come to join in creating a suitable habitat for this wildlife species.