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Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How many kinds of butterflies are there in the world?

Answer: There are approximately 170, 000 identified species of Lepidoptera in the world. 90% are moths and only 10% are butterflies (about 17,000).

Q: How many butterflies do you have?

A: Our numbers vary with availability from the farms that supply us. We have between 50-100 varieties of butterflies and we try to keep over 800 flying in the garden.

Q: How long do they live?

A: Most butterflies live for 10-14 days as adult butterflies. There are numerous exceptions longer & shorter – But, 2 weeks is average.

Q: Their whole life is 2 weeks?

A: No! They start as an egg that incubates for 3-7 days. When they hatch they are then a caterpillar for 10-18 days. When ready they form a chrysalis to change into a butterfly inside of. They are in the chrysalis from 7-12 days. After emerging from the chrysalis an adult butterfly will live 10-14 days on average. This means that usually their total life span is 30 -50 days.

Q: Is a chrysalis the same as a cocoon?

A: A moth caterpillar makes a cocoon. They spin silk around their entire body and then form a thin pupa case inside the silk cocoon. A butterfly caterpillar makes a small pad of silk and stick their tail to it. They then shed their skin forming a chrysalis (a tough skin covering) to pupate inside.

Q: Is there a difference between a butterfly and a moth?

Answer:

(a) Developmentally: a moth spins a cocoon and a butterfly creates a chrysalis.
(b) Behaviorally: Butterflies are daytime active (diurnal) and moths are night active (nocturnal).
(c) Structurally: Butterfly antenna are slim with knobs at the end; Moth antenna are thick and feathery.

Q: Is it true that butterflies migrate?

A: Several types make minor geographical changes with seasons but only one type makes a major migration. The monarchs in North America gather together in a group and fly south in the fall. Those west of the Rocky Mountains go to Southern California while those east of the Rockies go to Mexico. To do this, the migratory generation of adult butterflies live longer than other monarchs (about 2-4 times) instead of the usual 2 weeks. Science cannot explain this phenomenon.

Q: Which predators eat butterflies?

A: Birds, small rodents, reptiles, amphibians, spiders, and predatory insects are all natural predators of butterflies.

Q: With so many predators how do they survive?

A: The average female butterfly after mating can lay over 100 eggs. They are eaten as eggs, caterpillars, pupa and many adult butterflies before mating or laying eggs so they survive by being prolific. Unfortunately for the butterfly, it’s main purpose is to be food for almost everything around it.

Q: How do you stop them from breeding in the garden?

A: They mate no matter what you do. The female however, chooses whether to lay eggs after she mates. Each species of butterfly caterpillar only eats certain plants (called host plants) the female looks for the specific plant type for her eggs. To do this she uses special taste buds located in her back feet. If she cannot find it she chooses not to lay eggs. (So – no baby food…No babies)

Q: Can we touch butterflies?

A: No. Butterflies are covered with tiny overlapping scales, thus their scientific name (Lepidoptera), which means scaly wings. Removal of a butterflies scales can shorten their life span and makes them less beautiful since their colorful designs are in the scale patterns. The slightest touch brushes away these scales.

Q: What is the purpose of the scales?

A: Mostly they are used to control body temperature. They can also be used for fine flight control creating more flight drag on one side than the other. The scales are also what gives them their beautiful colors and handling them removes the scale and makes them less beautiful; (Their unique coloring/markings are also a defense against many predators)