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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Butterflies

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A butterfly is an insect of the taxonomic order Lepidoptera. It is remarkable for its unusual life cycle comprising different stages like larval caterpillar stage, pupal stage and metamorphosis. The caterpillar stage is motile where as pupal stage is inactive. The metamorphosis is a spectacular stage of the life cycle of a butterfly as it produces a familiar, colourful and winged adult.

There are three types of butterflies – True Butterflies that belong to the Superfamily Papilioidea, the Skippers that belong to the Superfamily Hesperioidea, and the Moth Butterflies that belong to the Superfamily Hedyloidea. Most of the true butterflies are day flyers, and so they can draw our regular attention. Their brightly coloured wings form such a diverse pattern that in spite of their erratic but graceful flight, people develop a hobby of watching them.

VISION, HEARING AND SENSE OF COLOUR
Butterflies have well developed vision. Many species are even sensitive to the ultraviolet spectrum. Many of them show sexual dimorphism in the pattern of ultraviolet reflective patches.Some researchers have reported that some species of butterflies have organs of hearing and some species are still known to produce clicking sounds.Butterflies have well developed sense of colour. Due to this they remain cleaverer enough in selecting places where they alight. They try to hide themselves in the background by expanding their wings and if disturbed once, they try to remain on the same place again and again.

TERRITORIAL BEHAVIOUR AND MIGRATION
Some butterflies maintain territories. They chase butterflies of other species very actively. They bask on chosen perches usually during cool morning hours, and observe individuals that try to intrude their territories.They chase individuals that may stray into their territories.

Many butterflies such as Monarch Butterflies are capable of long distance flights. They migrate during the day and use the sun to orient themselves. They also perceive polarised light and use it for orientation when the sun is hidden.

ECONOMIC IMPORTANCE OF BUTTERFLIES
Butterflies are important economically as agents of pollination. They form an important link of the ecosystem of the locality in which they live.However, some butterflies are pests as they can damage domestic crops and trees in their larval stage.

FOOD HABIT AND PERCHING BEHAVIOUR
Butterflies primarily feed on nectar of flowers which they suck in liquid state.They obtain glucose from the nectar and derive energy they need for their active life.They, however, need minerals like sodium for their reproduction. Due to this fact, they sometimes derive nourishment from tree sap, rotting fruits, dung, and dissolved minerals in wet sand or dirt.This may be the potential reason why a butterfly can be seen on a railway platform that can provide them many of such opportunities.

Butterflies usually sip water from damp patches. Some butterflies need more sodium during their reproductive stages. That is why they some times land on people attracted by their sweat that contains sodium. Some butterflies usually visit dung, rotting fruits, or carcasses to obtain minerals and other nutrients.

SPECIAL FEATURES
Butterflies have scales that act as tiny solar collectors. This knowledge has led scientists in China and Japan to design a more efficient Solar Cell that could be used for powering homes, business and for other applications in future.


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