Did you know that there are thousands of different species, or types of butterflies all over the world? There are more than 15,000 different types of butterflies that scientists know about today.With so many different types of butterflies out there, scientists need to have a way to keep all of their information organized. They do this by categorizing butterflies into different families. There are six main families of butterflies, and each family has a funny name that is difficult to pronounce. Luckily, scientists also give each family a common name which is much easier to say and is also easier to remember.
Butterflies come in all different shapes, sizes, colors, and patterns. There are thousands of variations that make each one unique. After you learn more about the six families of butterflies, keep an eye out for the types of butterflies flying around your backyard.
The first family of butterflies is called Hesperiidae, but butterflies in this group are more commonly known as skippers or darts. These types of butterflies got their nickname because they often perform a darting or skipping movement while they are flying. Some skippers are brightly colored, while others are brown and plain. Skippers’ antennae are spread apart widely and they also have big eyes. Sometimes they are even mistaken for moths. One skipper, called the Regent Skipper, has a look that sets it apart from other skippers. The Regent Skipper is black, with splotches of yellow and red on its upper and lower wings. This particular butterfly lives in Australia.
The second family of butterflies is called Papilionidae, and are also known as swallowtails. Swallowtails get this name because their back wings have small extensions that look like tails. These butterflies are noticed for their large and colorful wings. The Black Swallowtail is so common in North America that you have probably already seen one in your backyard. It is big and black with yellow or blue dots and has wings that spread 8-11 centimeters wide.
Pieridaes are a third family of butterflies, known as the whites or the Suphurs, because many of these butterflies are white or yellow. Some of these butterflies use their wings to reflect the sunlight in patterns that attract mates. The California dogface butterfly fits into this family, and it also happens to be the official insect for the state of California. These butterflies got the nickname dogface because the pattern on the wings of a male looks similar to the face of a dog. The male has wings with vivid colors like blue-black, orange, and yellow. The females are solid yellow, but you will also find a tiny black dot centered on each wing.
A fourth family of butterflies, the Lycaenidae, includes butterflies more commonly called gossamer-winged. Other names for these butterflies are hairstreaks, coppers or blues. They are small in size, but big on beauty, with wings tipped in vivid blue or copper coloring. Others have white lines streaked across the underside of the body. One gossamer-winged butterfly is called the Peablue butterfly. This tiny flier can have wings as small as just 24 millimeters.
The Riodinidae are a fifth family of butterflies. They are called metalmarks because they have metallic colors including greens, oranges, and blues. Metalmarks can look very different from one another, as these butterflies have different shapes, sizes and patterns. Some of them even look like small swallowtails, because of the short taillike projection on their rear wings. These butterflies live mainly in tropical areas, but are also found in Europe. The Duke of Burgandy is a butterfly with checkered wings, and is one example of a metalmark from Europe.
The sixth family of butterflies is called the Nymphalidae, or the brush-foot butterfly. These butterflies have tiny front legs that are so small that they often go unnoticed. Brush-foot butterflies use these small legs like taste buds to taste their food! The Monarch is a common brush-foot butterfly, and has big orange wings with a bold black outline around the edges. The monarch butterfly migration is similar to a bird, flying south for the winter. A Monarch’s body is black with white polka-dots.