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Table of Contents
ALL ABOUT BUTTERFLIES!
|What is a Butterfly?||Life Cycle||Butterfly Anatomy||Information Sheets||Glossary||Printables and Activities|
|Egg Anatomy||Caterpillar Anatomy||Pupa Anatomy||Adult Butterfly Anatomy|
|Butterfly Head||Butterfly Thorax||Butterfly Wings||Butterfly Abdomen|
When the fully-grown adult butterfly emerges from its pupa, its delicate wings are crinkled, wet, and uninflated. The butterfly hangs upside-down and pumps blood into the wings to inflate them. It must then wait for the wings to dry before it can fly. When the fragile wings fray or are torn, they do not repair themselves.
Wing Structure and Scales: Butterfly wings are made of two chitonous layers (membranes) that are nourished and supported by tubular veins. The veins also function in oxygen exchange ("breathing"). Covering the wings are thousands of colorful scales, together with many hairs (setae). The name Lepidoptera (which includes butterflies and moths) means "scale wing" in Greek. These wing scales are tiny overlapping pieces of chitin on a butterfly or moth wing. The scales are outgrowths of the body wall and are modified, plate-like setae (hairs). The front and back of the wings usually have different patterns.
Scent scales are modified wing scales on the forewing of male butterflies and moths (on the costal fold) that release pheromones. These chemicals attract females of the same species. Scent scales are also called androconia.
Wingspan is the distance measured across a butterfly's (or moth's) wings. The butterfly with the biggest wingspan is the Queen Alexandra's Birdwing, which has a wingspan up to 1 ft (30 cm) wide.
The Coupling of the Wings: During flight, the forewing and hindwing are held together and function as one wing. The coupling mechanism differs in different species. In most butterflies, a lobe on the hindwing presses against the forewing. In most moths, bristles on the front edge of the hind wings (called the frenulum) connect with hooks on the hind edge of the forewing. In some moths, a lobe at the base of the forewings (called the jugum) overlaps the hindwings.
Wings At Rest: When at rest, butterflies hold their wings vertically. Moths hold their wings horizontally when at rest. A monarch butterfly at rest is pictured to the right.
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