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Beautiful Butterflies – the fluttering flowers of nature

We all come across butterflies and caterpillars in our gardens and while we’re out in the Nature . . . but do you know your butterflies and all the fascinating facts surrounding them. Butterflies are insects and they come in many shapes, sizes and colours and many can be found right here in Somerset West.

Showing off a beaded butterfly feeder

Showing off a beaded butterfly feeder

Last Friday – 21 November all our Eco-Rangers were given the opportunity to learn more about these magnificent insects and make an attractive, beaded butterfly feeder. Children of all ages enjoyed the craft activity and many beautiful feeders were created. The beads served to make a the feeder look great and to add colour so as to attract the butterflies. We hope you all hung your feeders up so that the butterflies could come and visit. Send us pictures of your visiting butterflies.

Our Caracals and Leopards were later given a chance to play the Eco-Ranger Butterfly ID game which helps children to learn their butterflies and caterpillars. We hope you all had fun and next time when you are out and about . . . test your knowledge and see how many species you can identify correctly.

Showing off a beaded butterfly feeder

Showing off a beaded butterfly feeder

As for some fun and fascinating facts:

1. Did you know that a group of butterflies is called ‘Flutter’ of Butterflies.

2. Butterflies can taste with their feet. Now that seems weird . . . but very true. Taste receptors are found on a butterfly’s feet and these help the insect find and locate food.

3. Butterflies attach their eggs to leaves with a special kind of natural glue.

4. Fully developed caterpillars will attach themselves to a twig or leaf before they shed their outside layer of skin. Under the outer skin is a hard skin called a chrysalis. The chrysalis is the case where an incredible transformation takes place and caterpillar becomes a butterfly.

5. On emerging from the chrysalis, the butterfly needs to assemble its proboscis or mouth part. Without a proboscis, the butterfly cannot drink nectar and will die.

6. Butterflies live totally on liquids. Their proboscis acts like a drinking straw and is designed to allow them to drink. They cannot chew with this mouth piece. They rely on nectar from flowers and they will also drink from puddles where they will pick up essential nutrients. Drinking puddles in called puddling and is most common in male butterflies.

7. A butterfly’s lifecycle is made up of four parts, egg, larva (caterpillars), pupa (chrysalis) and adult.

8. Butterfly wings are really transparent. A butterfly wing is formed by layers of chitin which is the protein that makes up an insect’s exoskeleton. These layers of chitin are so thin you can see right through them. There are thousands of tiny scales covering the transparent chitin. These scales reflect light in different colors making the wings appear vibrant. You will see on older butterflies the areas where scales have fallen off the wings. Here you will see transparent spots where the chitin layer is exposed.

9. Butterflies cannot fly if they’re cold. Butterflies need an ideal body temperature of around 30 ºC fly. They cannot function when it is too cold. On cooler days a butterfly will warm up its flight muscles by shivering or basking in the sun.

10. A newly emerged butterfly can’t fly. While in the chrysalis, a developing butterfly has its wings wrapped around its body. When it leaves the case, the butterfly has tiny, shriveled wings which must wait to have fluid pumped through the vein. In time the wings will expand and harden. This can take a few hours.

11. Butterflies live just 2-4 weeks, however, there are certain butterflies that can live up to nine months while others may live only a few days.

12. Butterflies don’t see the world as we do. They are nearsighted and can see and discriminate a lot of colors.
Butterflies rely on their eyesight for vital tasks such as finding a mate and seeking flowers on which to feed. Butterflies can also see a range of ultraviolet colors which we cannot see.

13. Butterflies use all kinds of tricks to prevent predators eating them.
Some butterflies blend in to the background, using camouflage to hide. Others might be bright and bold and give off a toxic smell or poison to deter the hungry creature pursuing from them.

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