Q:

How do butterflies fly?

A:

Quick Answer

Butterflies use muscles to move their wings and take flight. The wings are made of a thin, translucent material called chitin that covers a framework of small veins. Butterflies need the correct weather conditions because their muscles must be warmed up before they can fly. Because the scales on their wings are used to absorb heat, butterflies take shelter during severe weather to avoid damaging them.

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Full Answer

Butterflies have evolved to know when to avoid harsh weather conditions, as there is no way for them to repair their wings if they are damaged. Additionally, the muscles used to control their wings are paralyzed when the weather is below 55 degrees Fahrenheit, meaning they would be unable to escape from predators or find food if it was too cold.

To fly, a butterfly must obtain warmth from the sun by basking and exposing its thorax, where the muscles attach, or creating warmth with rapid movements (much like humans warm up before exercising). The best temperature range for flight is 80 to 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Flying also takes a lot of energy for butterflies, so they must find energy-rich sources of food, including sugar from flower nectar, and salt and nutrients from small puddles of water.

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Related Questions

  • Q:

    What do butterflies eat?

    A:

    Most fully grown butterflies extract and eat nectar from flowers by using their tongue as a straw, while a smaller minority of butterflies consume tree sap, organic material and rotting animal matter. Some butterfly caterpillars eat leaves, while others feed on seed pods, seeds and flowers.

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  • Q:

    What is the niche of butterflies?

    A:

    Different butterfly species occupy slightly different niches, but most are forest- or field-dwelling, flying, nectar-feeding insects. Butterflies have long, extensible tongues that they insert into flowers to suck out the nectar. During feeding, butterflies are often covered in pollen, making them effective agents of pollination for plants. Butterflies are eaten by a variety of predators, including birds and reptiles.

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  • Q:

    How do butterflies eat?

    A:

    Butterflies eat by sipping nectar and other liquids through their proboscis, a tubular appendage that functions like a straw. The larvae of butterflies, called caterpillars, feed voraciously on plant material, especially leaves.

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  • Q:

    How long do butterflies live?

    A:

    On average, a butterfly lives about a month. However, the time can vary greatly between species, and females tend to live longer than males. It's extremely unusual for a butterfly of any species to live longer than a year.

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