Butterflies are insects belonging to one of two families:
Hesperioidea or Papilionoidea. They fall into the
order Lepidoptera and are closely related to the common
moth. In fact, there is even a type of butterfly called
The American Butterfly Moth which fits into both categories
(depending on who you ask.)
Butterflies are noted first and foremost for their
incredible lifecycle process: they begin life as larval
caterpillars, cocooning themselves once they reach
maturity and beginning a metamorphic transformation
that results into the winged, adult form.
The simple grace and erratic movements of butterflies,
coupled with the menagerie of colors sported on their
wings have enchanted people since the beginning of
time. Butterfly hobbyists range from collectors, who
preserve the insects in glass cases to admire, to
photographers, who add their own artistic, less macabre
spin to the hobby, as well as painters and simple
watchers. Steven Albaranes is one of the aforementioned
butterfly painters. Philip Greenspun, another artistic
butterfly enthusiast, maintains a gallery of beautiful
photographs online, too.
The name Butterfly comes from the old English term
buttorfleoge, but the Germanic word, milchdieb, provides
a bit more insight into where the word comes from.
Butterflies, it seems, were thought to pilfer diary
products. (Milchdieb literally means Milk Thief. Where
the idea of milk-stealing butterflies comes from is
unknown, but it has also been suggested that butterflies
may have gotten their reputation from the way their
excrement (vaguely) resembles butter. Clearly, certain
medieval scientists needed access to higher quality
Among the insect races, butterflies are the kings
of color: the hundreds of species each possess an
individual style of wing, and each specific butterfly
has its own personal markings on its wings. The Luna
Moth (which, I don't care what anyone says, is a butterfly)
soars among the flowers in shades of brilliant green,
while the Blue Morpho adds a sharp neon contrast to
the plans it subsists on. Common Jezebels are yellow
and red, Speckled Woods are a deep amber color, and
the Metalmarks of North America are bedecked in wings
of black and gold.
It is common knowledge that butterflies eat pollen
and drink nectar, but not nearly as many people are
aware that these colorful insectsalso eat such unsavories
as dung, rotting treebark and fruits, and even the
dissolved minerals found in wet sand and dirt. (Starting
to think twice about letting one land on you?) Butterflies
detect such potential meals with their scent-sensitive
antennae, which are actually covered in microscopic
burrs that catch scent particles for the butterfly
Butterflies have also come to be a dominant, though
sometimes cliched force in the world of poetry. The
famous Chinese poet Chuang-Tse used butterflies to
emphasize the ephemeral nature of existence (and to
thoroughly confuse a western audience, to which he
was completely oblivious.
The poem in question reads:
I dreamt I was a butterfly. I couldn't tell if I was
But when I woke, I was I and not a butterfly.
Was I dreaming that I was the butterfly,
Or was the butterfly dreaming that it was me?
Makes you think, eh?
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