Sweet Things Butterfly Facts

  • The word butterfly came from the English word Buttorfleoge. Perhaps because, in mediaeval times, butterflies could be seen hovering around butterchurns or that their excrement is yellowish in colour.
  • There are 292 species of butterflies in Canada. Most of which are found in British Columbia (176) and the fewest on Prince Edward Island (42). In Ontario we have 142 species.
  • Some butterflies, such as the Northern Pearly Eye, will fly at night.
  • Butterflies are the second largest group of pollinators…..next to bees.
  • Harvester larvae are carnivorous. They feed on aphids not plants.
  • Monarchs have been known to migrate over 3000km. In fact a Monarch tagged at Presqu’ile, here in southern Ontario, was recovered in Mexico and is on record as being the longest insect migration.
  • Butterflies don’t have lungs.
  • The larvae of some of the some Blues, Coppers and Hairstreak butterflies produce a sugary excretion that is consumed by ants that in turn protect the larvae from predators.
  • Butterflies taste with their feet.
  • The Monarch’s Mexican wintering site was only discovered in 1975.
  • The Mourning Cloak and Compton Tortoiseshell are Canada’s longest lived butterfly. They can last up to 11 months.
  • In Canada we have two butterflies that use evergreens: the Pine Elfin and the Juniper Hairstreak.
  • Monarchs can fly a 1000km without stopping.
  • Butterflies make up 20 percent of the order lepidoptera.
  • Caterpillars shed their skin to accommodate growth…..just like snakes have to.
  • The Giant Swallowtail is the largest butterfly found in Canada. It’s wingspan can reach up to 5″.
  • It takes two years for the Macoun’s Arctic to complete one life cycle.
  • The largest threat to butterflies is loss of habitat.
  • Since butterflies are cold blooded it is necessary for them to warm up their flight muscles. This is done by basking in the sun in order to absorb heat.
  • True butterfly antennae are filament like with a bulbous end.
  • Butterflies can attain a flight speed of up to 50 kph.
  • Even though Skippers are considered to be butterflies their appearance would suggest that their might be more closely related to moths than butterflies. Skippers have a thicker hairy body and hooked antennae….unlike true butterflies.
  • Monarchs can attain an altitude of a kilometer or more during migration.
  • The major cause of death to the Cabbage White larvae is rain, which knocks them off their plants where they drown or are severely injured.
  • Northern Pearly Eyes are very territorial. They will attack other male intruders.
  • Butterflies are really cool.
  • Eastern Tailed Blue, Marine Blue, Bog Elfin and the Small Checkered Skipper all share top honours for Canada’s smallest butterflies at wing a span of 16mm. Worldwide the smallest are the Pygmy butterflies at 11mm.
  • The Mourning Cloak has been known to play dead in order to escape predators.
  • Mourning Cloaks and Compton Tortoiseshells frequently feed at Sapsucker drillings.
  • Butterflies smell with their antennae.
  • The Painted Lady is the most wide spread butterfly species in the world. Occurring on all continents accept South American and Antarctica.
  • When it rains butterflies find shelter in crevasses, in dense undergrowth and tree cavities.
  • Skipper antennae are filament like with a slight hook on the end.
  • If the scales are removed from a butterfly’s wing what is left is a transparent membrane.
  • The Karner Blue butterfly became extirpated in Ontario around 1991.
  • The Spring Azure is one of the shortest lived butterflies lasting only a couple of days.
  • There are only six species of butterflies, in Canada, that are found above the 75th parallel on Ellesmere Island (that’s up there); Polaris Fritillary, Dingy Fritillary, Arctic Blue, Hecla Sulphur, Labrador Sulphur, and the American Copper.
  • The male, of some species of butterflies, emits it’s pheromones through special scales on their wings.
  • Overwintering species of larvae avoid freezing by producing glycerol…..a kind of antifreeze.
  • Some larvae communicate with ants by producing sounds.
  • Male Monarchs never make the return journey the following spring.
  • Some members of the Skipper family of butterflies can attain flight speeds in excess of 50 kph.
  • Milbert’s Tortoiseshells lay eggs in clusters containing upwards of a thousand.
  • Butterflies breath through openings in their abdomen called “spiracles”.
  • Butterflies are divided into two main groups called skippers (hesperioidea) and true butterflies (papilionoidea).