Animal Poachery

Frog Butterfly Elephant

Ξ Poem Butterfly Notes Song ♫
© 1986..2009 by Andreas Wittenstein. Some rights reserved. (CC)

flutter, flitter: Unlike the wings of birds or bats, butterfly wings are stiff, and flap with a rigid fluttering motion. In normal flight, the overlapping front and rear wings flutter together as a single pair.

prettify, beautify: The striking appearance of some of the most beautiful butterflies serves as an aposematic warning to birds and other would-be predators who taste them and survive to remember their mistake.

sputter-flights: So enormous are the wings of the butterfly in comparison to its body that each flap of its wings jolts it upward at up to 50 kilometers per hour from its otherwise smooth glide, giving it the characteristic flight pattern of a small airplane with a sputtering engine.

shutter-wings: The butterfly is unusual in being able to fold its wings completely together into a single flat petal-like shape lacking the easily spotted bilateral symmetry of its open wings.

butter-colored flakes: The butterfly's transparent wing membranes are covered with myriad microscopic scales, evolved from modified hairs, that give them their zoological name, Lepidoptera (‘scale-wing’). The brown- and yellow-colored scales often found on the wings, especially on their undersides, are pigmented with melanin, just like human hair and skin, and help warm the poikilothermic butterfly in the sunlight. In some butterflies, their patterns mimic eye spots, making them appear much larger to potential predators.

afire, flames, pyre: Many of the brilliant hues on the upper surfaces of many butterfly wings are due not to pigments but to the iridescence of multiple semireflective layers whose spacing reinforces light of that wavelength through interference, ranging from red to ultraviolet in hue. Because the distance between layers in the butterflies' iridescent wing scales varies with the angle of the light ray, the colors change as the butterfly flutters its wings, causing them to flicker like flames. This confusing flickering helps them elude predation by overflying birds.

petal, floral: Butterflies' wings are one of the few things in nature that match the colorfulness and beauty of flowers. In some butterflies, the underside of the wing, visible when the butterfly folds its wings together, is covered with a camouflage pattern resembling the flowers it frequents. In shape and thickness, too, butterfly wings resemble flower petals.

brittle-fly: The wings of a butterfly consist of a pair of fragile chitinous membrane layers laced with fine tubular blood vessels that support them and nourish them. Once torn or broken, the wings do not grow back or heal.

settle: Butterflies need to land in order to pollinate and drink from flowers, and many flowers have evolved special landing pads for the butterflies that pollinate them. In contrast, to discourage egg-laying by butterflies whose caterpillars consume them, the leaves of some plants evolve rapidly divergent leaf shapes to disguise them from butterflies who settle on familiar-looking leaves and recognize them acoustically by drumming on them with their feet.

helter-skelter: The flight of the butterfly is highly erratic, an adaptation that thwarts predators.

through the sky, afloat on high: Monarch butterflies commonly attain an altitude of over 1 kilometer on their annual migration, when they fly as far as 3000 kilometers between their summer homes in northern North America and their wintering grounds in Mexico, sometimes flying a thousand kilometers without stopping to feed or rest.

fructify the flowers: (make fruitful) Butterflies are important pollinators of many flowers.

bibble: (drink compulsively) The butterfly sips nectar from flowers through a long straw (proboscis) that it curls up into a spiral when not in use.

paper fly: The thickness of most butterfly wings is only a fraction of a millimeter, comparable to that of fine paper.

shuttling: In their aerial courtship dance, butterflies weave seductively in and out of each other's paths.

nectar-vine, honey-bine: Butterflies feed mainly on the nectar and pollen of flowers, though they will often supplement that diet with water, sap, rotting fruit, and even dung.

never wondering: The behavior of butterflies and other insects is almost entirely hardwired in a brain too small and simple to admit of much thoughtful reflection. Do butterflies know that they were once caterpillars?

bye-good-bye: The adults of most butterfly species are very short-lived, some spending scarcely a day or two courting, mating, and laying eggs before dying.

For more information on butterflies, see the Wikipedia Butterfly article.

To see living butterflies in a protected environment, visit one of these butterfly zoos:

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