About Butterflies and Moths – Part 2
By Mary Free, Extension Master Gardener
Like most adult INSECTS, butterflies and moths have three main body parts: a head with a pair of compound eyes and a pair of ANTENNAE; a THORAX that bears THREE pairs of legs and carries two pairs of WINGS; and an abdomen.
A caterpillar head has six pairs of simple EYES that detect light and DARK; a pair of usually short antennae; MANDIBLES for chewing food; and spinnerets that may produce SILK.
The segmented thorax bears … ONE pair of spiracles, small holes that allow the exchange of gases (OXYGEN and carbon dioxide).
Eight more pairs of spiracles line either side of the segmented ABDOMEN, which, depending on the species, is supported by two to seven pairs of short, fleshy proLEGS…
Moth antennae are thread-like (female) or FEATHERlike (male)…
Moths also use their antennae to sniff out food and to find HOST plants for oviposition.
Lepidopteran wings (FOREwings and HINDwings) are covered with modified hairs called scales.
Not all moths are strictly NOCTURNAL (active at night) though.
White-lined sphinx moth (Hyles lineata) flies at night but it is also crepuscular (active at DAWN or dusk)…
Butterflies that are DIURNAL (active during the day) often sport wings more vibrantly colored and patterned.
Prominent wing eyeSPOTS have proven, under certain circumstances, to be effective in intimidating or deflecting predators…
Lepidopterans are “cold-blooded,” which means that their body TEMPERATURE varies according to the environment.
Butterflies need the radiant energy of direct SUNLIGHT to warm their flight muscles in order to FLY, which is why they are often seen BASKING on sunny leaves or rocks.
Most moths cannot take advantage of the sun, so they heat up their flight MUSCLES by vibrating their wings or shivering.