What are the Different Types of Butterflies?

Did you know that there are about 17,500 different species of butterfly? We can’t tell you about them here because it would take far too long. So instead, we’ve chosen a few different types of butterflies for you to learn about. Enjoy!

Leaf butterfly

The leaf butterfly, also known as the Kallima butterfly, gets its name from its appearance. You guessed it – this butterfly looks like a leaf! When its wings are closed behind its back, each branch looks like a fallen leaf with a brown vein running along the middle. It works as a great type of butterfly camouflage to keep the butterfly safe.

Scientists believe the leaf butterfly evolved to get its characteristic looks to escape predators. The theory of natural selection and adaptation suggests that the butterflies which looked most like leaves would have had better chances of survival. This means that the “leafiest” of the leaf butterflies could pass on their genes to their offspring. Eventually, all of these butterflies would look very similar to leaves.

When the wings open, however, the leaf butterfly is beautifully vibrant, with an orange stripe and a blue shimmer.

Where do these butterflies live?

The leaf butterfly is found in Asian countries like India and Japan. It is a strong flier who likes to live in dense, wet forests. It eats tree sap and ripe fruit to give it plenty of energy to fly around and complete its life cycle.

The Queen Alexandra’s Birdwing

Queen Alexandra’s birdwing (Ornithoptera alexandrae) is the largest butterfly in the world. Their wingspan can reach up to 11 inches (or under 28 centimeters)! Females are generally larger than males, though females are a duller grey and cream color, whereas males have brilliant blue and green wings instead. The caterpillars are black with red tubercles, plus a light-colored band around their middle. They are very powerful fliers and like to fly in the early morning and at dusk.

Where do these butterflies live?

You can find Queen Alexandra’s Birdwing in Papua New Guinea. Sadly, these butterflies have become critically endangered due to deforestation and black market butterfly poachers.

Common blue butterfly

Where do these butterflies live?

The common blue butterfly is found in various grassy habitats in Britain and Ireland. These include coastal dunes, cliffs, road verges, and clearings in forests and woodland. So its name makes sense – it is the most common butterfly living in Britain and Ireland.

The males of this species are very brightly colored, but the female common blue butterfly is a little more subtle. The female common blue butterfly can be almost completely brown, but its color varies between different areas. The female common blue butterflies tend to have bright orange dots along the edge of their wings, but it can go.

These butterflies live in groups called colonies of up to several hundred, but some do live on their own.

The Western Pygmy Blue

This butterfly is tiny. It is known as the world’s smallest butterfly! Its wingspan is sometimes only half an inch (or just over 1 centimeter) across. Even though they are called the Western Pygmy Blue (or (Brephidium exilis or Brephidium exile), they are brown with a small amount of blue at the base of their wings.

Where do these butterflies live?

These butterflies are mostly found in Central America and Mexico, as they like the warm weather. However, they are quite common all across the Americas as a whole.

Paper kite butterfly

If you ever go to a butterfly house or exhibition, keep an eye out for the paper kite butterfly. With a wingspan of around 14 cm, it is quite big and easy to spot. It has beautiful silvery wings with black spots.

Predators need to watch out, though. The paper kite butterfly and its larva are poisonous. This is because the host plants that they eat are poisonous too.

Where do these butterflies live?

The paper kite butterfly is most commonly found in Southeast Asia but can sometimes be found in Northern Australia and Southern Taiwan. They live mostly in mangrove swamps or coastal areas.

Peacock butterfly

Like the owl butterfly, the peacock butterfly has big eyespots on its wings to confuse predators or scare them off. It has brownish-red branches with a single large eyespot like those found on peacock feathers. The underside of its wings is almost black, which allows the butterfly to hide on tree trunks.

Female peacock butterflies lay eggs in batches of up to 500, which starts the peacock butterfly life cycle. When the caterpillar’s hatch, they spin a web where they can live and feed together. The caterpillars are black with short spines and white speckles.

The peacock butterfly’s life cycle lasts almost a year, from the first eggs laid to the adult butterflies dying. After that, several months of their lives are spent in hibernation to survive the harshness of winter.

Where do these butterflies live?

The peacock butterfly is a strong flier who likes to roam Ireland and Britain’s countryside. It wants to live in woodland clearings, and around fields, so you might be able to spot it when you are out on a walk.

Fun fact: This butterfly can also hiss! When it rubs its wings together, it can make a hissing noise that humans can hear. This is another way that it tries to scare off predators.

The Brimstone butterfly

The Brimstone butterfly (Gonepteryx rhamni) is the butterfly that is known to live the longest of any butterfly species. Brimstone butterflies have been known to live for around 13 months, which is quite a long time compared to most butterflies! However, some butterflies only live for a couple of weeks or months. This is because they have leaf-like pale yellow and green wings that help serve as camouflage from predators. A reason for this short lifespan is the lack of food (flowers) in colder months. The brimstone butterfly gets around this by hibernating in cold weather and waking up when it is warm, and there are plenty of flowers!

Where do these butterflies live?

These butterflies can be found in Europe, Asia, and Africa. If you’re lucky, you might find one in the garden if you live in the United Kingdom!

Ulysses butterfly

These beautiful Ulysses butterflies are from a type called swallowtails. The Ulysses butterfly is also known as the Blue Emperor butterfly. The name Ulysses comes from the Roman name of an ancient Greek hero.

The upper side of the Ulysses butterfly’s wings is a bright, electric blue with a black border. The underside is black and brown, which might help it camouflage itself. When flying, the butterfly can be seen from great distances because its bright blue wings flash as they flap.

Where do these butterflies live?

The Ulysses butterfly lives in Australia, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, and the Solomon Islands, in tropical rainforests and suburban areas. Some people breed Ulysses butterflies, but they have to get permits to do so.

Spring Azure

In contrast to the Brimstone butterfly, the Spring Azure (Celastrina ladon) only lives for a few days. It is a tiny butterfly with dark blue wings. The caterpillars are shades of pale green and can have small green marks that look like moss.

Where do these butterflies live?

Despite its short lifespan, this butterfly can be found across North America.

Zebra butterfly

The zebra butterfly gets its name from its mammal counterpart: the beautiful zebra with its black and white stripes. Zebra butterflies have black and white stripes on their wings, which are important for warning off predators, so they don’t get eaten. The caterpillars are white with black spots and black spikes along their body.

The zebra butterfly feeds on pollen and nectar, which is unusual for butterflies. Most butterflies only feed on nectar. Chemicals in pollen make the zebra butterfly toxic to potential predators. Their ability to use multiple food sources also means they have quite a long lifespan for a butterfly.

Where do these butterflies live?

These butterflies live in South and Central America but migrate north into other American states when the weather is warmer. They roost together in big groups at night, which helps them to stay safe and keep warm.

The Painted Lady

The Painted lady (Vanessa cardui) is a very popular butterfly, partially due to its beautiful orange, black, and white wings. Their wingspan is usually around 5-6 centimeters across.

Where do these butterflies live?

This butterfly has the longest migration route of any butterfly, spreading from North Africa, the Middle East, and Central Asia to mainland Europe, eventually reaching Britain and Ireland. As a result, you will often find these butterflies in your garden around August and early September.

Monarch butterfly and life cycle

Monarch butterflies have a striking pattern of black lines and white spots on an orange background. A couple of species look very similar to the monarch butterfly, including the painted lady and the ruler.

Where do these butterflies live?

The monarch butterfly lives in North America but migrates during the autumn to find warmer places to live. During this migration, they cover thousands of miles, but some have traveled much further – monarch butterflies have even been bred on the International Space Station!

Life cycle

The monarch butterfly’s life cycle is one of complete metamorphosis. It includes egg, larva, pupa, and adult stages. During the larval stage of the monarch butterfly life cycle, the caterpillar goes through five distinct growth phases. After each step, it molts. Each degree the caterpillar goes through during the monarch butterfly life cycle helps it grow bigger and store the energy it needs to transform into a butterfly during the pupal stage.

At the end of the monarch butterfly life cycle, a beautiful, fully-grown butterfly emerges from the pupa. It hangs upside down to dry for a few hours before it can fly away and start its life as an adult.

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