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Comparing Butterflies

Are All Butterflies the Same?

Imagine a field covered with a variety of wildflowers.   As far as you can see, there is a profusion of color--yellow, orange, red, blue, purple--the colors are unlimited and make a lovely splash on the background of green.   As you feast your eyes on this field, you notice a number of flying creatures that are flitting from one flower to another.  You are disappointed that the picture is marred until you notice that the flying creatures are a profusion of colors as well and seem to blend wonderfully with the flowers.  On closer examination, you can see that the flying creatures are actually a plethora of butterflies come to feast on the nectar from the myriad of flowers.  You have a passing thought that, though you know all the creatures are butterflies, you wonder why they all look different? 

In this web site, I hope to help you learn to differentiate among the different species of butterflies that can be found in Arkansas and give you a background knowledge that will help you to be able to classify butterflies wherever you may be.

My name is Kimberly Cole.  I am the business teacher at Mt. Holly High School.  My brother, Charles Baldridge,  has managed to get me fascinated with butterflies, and I would like to pass along my information to you so that you can use it in your classroom. Get ready to use your imagination to help create a fascination for your students as well.

Albino Orange Sulphur
Albino Orange Sulphur

Butterfly Classification

Butterflies are a beautiful and necessary creature in our eco-system.  They come in a variety of colors and sizes.  They have different color preference as to flowers, and they do not all lay their eggs in the same place.  It is these differences that make them such a necessitity and help to increase pollination. 

On first glance, butterflies may all seem to be alike.  It takes close observation to notice the differences other than color, size, and flight patterns.  Taking the time to make these observations can help you to learn about the different ways that butterflies are classified.

Butterflies are classified according to many different features.  These features include color or pigmentation of the scales of the butterfly, patterns found on their wings, flight pattern, size, and other special features. The special features may include the shape of the antenna, the existence of "tails", rituals that attract a mate (pheromones) and method of reproduction (internal fertilization), egg laying site and distribution, camouflage techniques, warning colors and mimicry, and the color of the flowers they prefer.

Camouflage techniques include cryptic coloration, shape of wings, and ability to stay perfectly still.  Some butterflies are the color of the flowers they frequent.  Other butterflies have wings that make them appear to look like twigs, leaves, bark, or scars and bud-like markings on a tree.  The ability to stay perfectly still enables the butterfly to go undetected by the predator that is looking for movement.

Warning colors are used by the butterflies whose caterpillars eat plants that are toxic to the predators causing their body fluids to have toxins in them.  These colors include red, orange, black, blue, green, and yellow.  Some of these colors are in specific patterns.   Mimicry is used by those butterflies who have no other technique to avoid their predators.  The mimicry is very effective and beneficial for these butterflies, since their predators will bypass them having taken the warning from other, toxic, butterflies.

Butterflies are usually classified in one of five family descriptions.

   

Swallowtails
Swallowtails

Whites and Sulfurs
Whites and Sulfurs

Skippers
Skippers

  

Gossamer Winged
Gossamer Winged

Brushfooted
Brushfooted

Each family has its own set of distinguishing characteristics.

Project Author: Kim Cole


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