Elephants are the largest land animal and Cheetah’s are by far the fastest (with Ostriches coming in at second place!); but one of the most interesting animals in the world is the Butterfly. Scientists estimate that there are between 15,000 and 20,000 different species of butterfly. With so many species and millions in the world, there are bound to be some interesting and fun facts about butterflies.
For example, did you know butterflies have an exoskeleton? Unlike humans, elephants and cheetahs whose bones are inside their bodies; butterflies and most other insects have skeletons on the outside of their body. Or, did you know that a butterflies flight speed is 12 miles per hour but they cannot fly if their body temperature is less than 86 degrees? But perhaps the most interesting aspect of a butterfly is its life cycle aka metamorphosis.
Whistler and I had an awesome time learning all about Butterflies at The Butterfly Farm on our recent mommy-son vacation in Aruba sponsored by The Aruba Marriott Resort and Stellaris Casino. Open 7 days a week (8.30 am – 4.30pm) with hundreds of exotic butterflies from all around the world – including South America, South East Asia, China, Africa ect – the Butterfly Farm is a great way to see butterflies of all shapes, colors and sizes. The guided tour provides easy to understand educational information and and up close and personal look at butterflies in all of their stages of metamorphosis. All the boys LOVED it and I’m pretty sure all the adults learned something they didn’t know before :)
The Metamorphosis of a Butterfly
The first stage in a butterflies life is the egg. It is a very small, cylindrical shaped object laid by the female butterfly. Using a special type of glue, the female attaches this egg to the leaf or stem on a plant. Once hatched, the caterpillar will use this plant as food. Butterflies will take nectar (food) from a wide variety of flowers, but female butterflies will only lay their eggs on the leaves of the specific plant that the caterpillar will eat!
Humans can only taste with their mouths. But did you know, before they lay their eggs, many butterflies actually taste with their feet to determine if the plant is right for their caterpillars food!
Once hatched, the caterpillar (or larva) begins the stage of eating and growth. This hungry caterpillar may be stripped or patched and some even have hairs. Each caterpillar’s markings are suited for the type of plant they live on and their predators. They truly as masters of disguise as they confuse and warn other animals as they happily do nothing but eat.
The Monarch Butterfly Caterpillar’s bright colors says he doesn’t taste very good.
The Zebra Longwing Butterfly’s black spikes help keep him from becoming dinner.
The Owl Butterfly Caterpillar blends in perfectly on the banana tree plant doesn’t he!?!?
The Lemon Butterfly Caterpillar blends in perfectly with the citrus plant he loves to eat!
As the caterpillar grows it sheds its skin four times to keep up with it’s growth spurts. Once the caterpillar is fully grown, they will seek out the perfect twig or leaf where they shed their outside layer of skin and form a Chrysalis.
As a Pupa, a caterpillar is hard at work during it’s transformation stage inside it’s chrysalis. It’s during this time that the adult insect begins to form. During our tour, we were shown many different types of butterfly chrysalis and as you can see, each is as unique as the caterpillar that made it!
After emerging from its chrysalis an adult waits a few hours for its wings to fill with blood and dry, before flying for the first time. We were lucky enough to arrive at a time were many butterflies were just about ready to take their first flight. A new Monarch Butterfly took his first flight and landed right on Whistler (that’s a sign of good luck!).
They became fast friends and he even decided to “hang” out for a bit!
The Adult Butterfly
As an adult, the butterfly is not only colorful but it’s now reproductive and mobile. During this stage, an adult butterfly will court, mate and lay it’s eggs. Depending on the species, an adult butterfly will live in this stage anywhere between one week and one year. While most stay local to where they were born, the Monarch Butterfly makes an incredible 2,000 mile journey from the US to Mexico and back over 6 generations to breed!
Fun Fact: Butterflies range in size from a tiny 1/8 inch to a huge almost 12 inches.
Everything we saw and learned was so interesting, but I have to admit that the most incredible sighting of the day was actually not a butterfly at all. Behold the stunning Atlas Moth – the largest moth in the world with a 10″ wingspan. Unfortunately, this guy doesn’t “look” so big, but he is actually sitting on HUGE tropical leaves that are at least 18″ big. (Man I wish I would have gotten a picture with my head next to this!)
The body was the size of a small rat. I wanted to try and hold it, but was honestly a little scared as his body alone was bigger than my hand!
Check out the edges of his wings – what do you see? If you said “a snake’s head” you’d be right! It’s great to ward off predators, although honestly, what would eat this monster of a moth anyway?
We loved this experience so much, Whistler was sad when it was time to leave. Luckily I remembered a product I had seen on Amazon a while back – The Live Butterfly Garden where you can witness the butterfly life cycle up close with your kids. I just ordered mine (it’s on sale for $11.75!) and can’t wait to show it to Whistler.
A HUGE thank you to the Aruba Marriott Resort and Stellaris Casino for making is possible for my son and I to experience the Aruba Butterfly Farm in person. As usual, all opinions and thoughts are my own!