5 fun facts about butterfliesMay 27, 2020 | Last Updated April 12, 2022
Soon, the warm sunny days of summer will be here. That will mean more time outside, playing in parks with friends, outdoor sports and maybe even wandering out into nature.
And if you're lucky, you might get to see a butterfly or two, either outdoors or at a botanical garden. Time to brush up on your butterfly knowledge.
The butterfly got its name from its poop
We’re not joking! Long ago, Dutch scientists were studying butterflies. And they took a look at their poop — which is officially called frass.
They noticed that the droppings looked an awful lot like butter. So they gave the insect the name butterfly.
Others suggest there’s another explanation for the name of these beautiful bugs. At one time, it was believed that witches turned themselves into butterflies and then flew off in search of food, especially butter.
Butterflies glue their eggs to leaves
Female butterflies make a special sticky fluid that works like glue. They use it to attach their eggs to plants. The glue helps keep the eggs stuck in place. In fact, the eggs would be destroyed if anything tried to remove them from the plant.
Once the eggs are attached to a leaf, a butterfly doesn’t stay to care for its young. But it does carefully plan where it lays its eggs. It only chooses plants that will provide caterpillars with plenty to eat when they eventually hatch from their eggs.
Butterflies taste with their feet
It might sound strange to us humans, but butterflies rely on their feet to taste food.
Their feet have taste sensors on them that help to locate food for their caterpillars. They stand on a leaf and give it a taste. If they determine the plant is something their caterpillars can eat, they’ll lay their eggs in this spot.
As for how butterflies themselves eat? They can’t bite or chew. So butterflies use a long, tube-like tongue called a proboscis (say "pro-boss-suhs") to eat. It works like a straw, allowing butterflies to slurp up liquids like nectar, sap and juice from rotting fruit.
Butterflies sometimes meet up and gather around puddles
Join the club! In some hot climates, it’s common to see groups of male butterflies fluttering around mud puddles. Called “puddle clubs,” these collections of butterflies gather near puddles or damp soil to slurp up the minerals found in them for dinner.
There are about 165,000 species of butterflies
Now that’s a lot of butterflies! And they’re all quite different. Some are small — like the western pygmy blue — which is about a centimetre in size.
Others — like the Queen Alexandra butterfly — can reach about the same size as a dinner plate when its wings are outstretched!
And some butterflies come in all kinds of vibrant colours. But some have wings that are completely see-through, like the glass-winged butterfly.
Plus, while most butterflies flutter along quite slowly, the skipper butterfly can fly quicker than a horse can run! What a family!
Where to spot them
Looking to watch butterflies flutter by? You might be lucky enough to spot some outside. Especially if you go on a nature walk or if you have some plants in your garden that attract butterflies.
Or, you can go to butterfly conservatories specially designed for them, where you can get up close with butterflies from all over the world. We’ve rounded up a few places you can visit:
Victoria Butterfly Gardens — Victoria, British Columbia
The facility is set up like a tropical rainforest, allowing visitors to watch over 75 species of butterflies fly, eat and lay eggs.
Shirley Richardson Butterfly Garden — Winnipeg, Manitoba
The exhibit, which is getting a big makeover, opens from late spring to early fall and lets guests see local species in flight.
Butterfly Conservatory — Niagara Falls, Ontario
It is home to over 2,000 butterflies and 45 different species. Visitors can watch through a special window to see butterflies emerge from their cocoons and take their first flight.
Montreal Botanical Garden — Montreal, Quebec
Every winter, an attraction called Butterflies Go Free is set up in the greenhouses of this botanical garden. That means over 2,000 butterflies and moths are released into the buildings.
Butterfly House — New Glasgow, PEI
From June to September, visitors can stop in and get up-close to tropical butterflies from Costa Rica.