Things To Know About Butterfly Body Parts

Butterfly Body Parts – One of the most beautiful insects in the world is butterfly. People especially the children were totally amazed with this beautiful flying creature. Well, apart from the amusement and joy that it provides on the environment, it also has an interesting life cycle. If you are conscious about it, then you must know about the body parts of the butterfly.

butterfly body parts and functions

As you have discovered its body parts, you will surely be impressed and will love this wonderful insect. Butterflies have an exoskeleton having jointed legs and composed of three basic body parts namely including head, thorax as well as abdomen. However, there are still more distinctive butterfly characteristics that will surely catch your interest. If you love animal science, then this article is the best one for you to read.

Eyes of Butterflies

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There are two kinds of butterfly’s eyes, the single and compound. One pair of simple eyes known as ocelli is considered as a single chambered and helps them to determine the light’s level of brightness. Butterflies do not have the capability to focus on a specific object. On the other hand, compound eyes were multifaceted and serve as their main eyesight.

Just like the retinas of human, butterflies accept light through one facet and received through their rhabdom. This beautiful insect can perceive light that ranges from 254 to 600 nm light wavelengths. What is unique about it is that, the light that they receive contains ultraviolet light that humans unable to see. Compared to butterflies, human can only perceive about 450 to 700 nm of light. In connection to this, Flicker-fusion rate is known as the amount at which light flickers are formed as a continuous image.

It is amazing to know that colourful butterflies can fly while having a vision of flicker-fusion rate that is up to 250 times higher compared to humans. Moreover, to give you an overview, people have a flicker-fusion rate of 45 to 53 flickers per second.

Mouthparts of Butterflies

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According to scientific studies, butterflies have a siphoning-sucking mouthpart composition. This is known as the proboscis. It is the same as a long tube and coil that is located on the beneath of the head of the butterfly. Proboscis has a food tube on its center wherein the nectar is siphoned by the butterflies. On the two sides of the butterfly’s food canal contains small muscles which help to control both the coiling and uncoiling of the insect’s proboscis.

Butterfly’s Antennae

Your favorite butterfly comes with one pair of segmented antennae. It has a clubbed basic shape which means that its segments grow in size as it was extended from its head. In the world of butterflies, this commonly form a club like appearance on the tip of the antenna.

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The antennae of butterflies are composed of chemoreceptors that are very helpful in assessing the surroundings’ physical and chemical properties. The chemoreceptors of butterflies are compared to the taste buds on the tongues of humans. Furthermore, this serves as the open nerve endings which transport necessary information into their central brains for translation.

As a matter of fact, the antennae were used by the butterflies to distinguish which plants produce nectar. In addition to this, male butterflies also use it to sense pheromones from female butterflies. Moreover, on the close base of the antennae in the second segment was the Johnston’s organ. It is an essential organ that is used for orientation and balance for their flight. However, if a butterfly lacks in antenna, there is a possibility that they will not able to fly on a specific direction or either they can fly in just a circular pattern.

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Butterfly Wings

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It is a fact that one of the reasons why people was amazed by butterflies is because of its attractive wings that come in different colors. Did you know that these wings were composed of thousands of tiny scales? Amazing isn’t it? The colors are distinguished through the layering and overlapping of the scales. Even more important, these colors provide the butterflies with various benefits. To mention one, it assists them by camouflaging as well as by warning colorations that helps them to stay protected against their potential predators.

Most of the butterflies have ultraviolet colors on their scales. However, people were not able to see these colors unlike the butterflies. What makes it unique is that butterflies can able to identify sexes with these supplementary colors on their wings.

Meanwhile, their wings can display melanism which is the darkening of wings, wing scales and veins that assist them with thermal regulation. It is quite interesting to know that butterflies are ectotherms, which means they need external sources to warm them up.

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The wing veins of the butterflies are hemolymph and hollow so that their blood is properly circulated in the whole body. The good thing is that butterflies can be warmed quickly with darker colorations during the cool temperature. Butterfly’s wings are also hydrophobic which means they have the ability to deter water. The microtopography on the wings of butterflies let water molecules to roll off the surface. It is an advantage, thus as the water is repelled, it works as their cleaning mechanism. The wings of the butterfly can be cleaned and the dirt was removed on its wings which can hinder them to fly.

Butterfly Legs

The butterfly is composed of six jointed legs. These legs also have six parts namely: coxa, femur, trochanter, tibia, pretarsus and tarsus. The legs of a butterfly have chemoreceptors on its tarsal segments. This helps them to smell and taste.

buckeye butterfly body parts

Female butterflies can identify if a plant is appropriate to lay eggs upon by the chemical which is released from the plant after drumming their legs on the surface of the leaf. These chemoreceptors pick up on the chemicals which are genetic.

One great example of this is a Monarch butterfly that responds to the release of chemical from milkweed plant species through laying eggs. However, they will not lay eggs on a snapdragon plant just like a Common Buckeye. It is amazing that butterflies can also locate food sources by simply using their chemoreceptors on their legs.

cabbage white butterfly body parts

Monarch (Butterflies) Anatomy


The egg of a butterfly is enclosed by a hard outer shell which is known as the chorion. It is important thus it helps to protect the developing larva. The shell has a layer of wax that keeps the egg from drying out. The egg is composed of one or more tiny funnel-shaped openings at one end, the micropyles.

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Eggs get their hard shell before it get fertilized, so this hole penetrates all the way though the shell and allow the sperm to enter. The raised areas on the egg shell are known as the ridges. These were formed inside the female before she lays the egg. Butterfly and moth eggs come in various shape.


Butterfly’s larvae are composing of three different body parts, the head, thorax and abdomen. The head includes a pair of a short antennae, mouthparts (upper lip, lower lip and mandibles), as well as six pairs of simple eyes called the ocelli. Even with these eyes, the caterpillar still has a poor vision. Fortunately, their antenna helps to guide the weak-eyed caterpillar and the maxillary palps, which are sensory organs that are essential to direct food into the larva’s jaws.

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Every thoracic segment has a pair of jointed or true legs. On the other hand, the abdominal segments have prolegs or false legs. Commonly, there are five pairs of prolegs which come with tiny hooks that hold the larva on its leaf. The fleshy tentacles on the Monarch larvae are not antennae, but it is also part of their sense organs.

Monarchs can able to take oxygen through holes that are located on their thorax and abdomen which are called the spiracles. Spiracles are attached to a network of long air tubes, the trachea which carries oxygen throughout their body.


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When the Monarch larva pupates, it splits its exoskeleton and wiggles out of its larval skin. The cremaster appears as this skin moves down the body. Cremaster is the spiny appendage located on the end of the abdomen. Before the pupation process, the Monarch hooks the cremaster into a silk pad spun by the larva. It will just hang from this until it arises as an adult. The pupa is very soft and delicate in texture. As it hardens, you can now be amazed with the various parts on the pupa such as the wings, legs, eyes as well as the abdomen.

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The adult butterfly’s body parts also have similar parts, the larva head, abdomen and thorax.  The adult butterfly’s head is composed of four basic structures: eyes, palpi, antennae and proboscis.

Its compound eyes are formed of thousands of ommatidia that sense light and images.  They have two antennae and two palpi that are covered with scales which can sense the air molecules and allows them to have a sense of smell.  The straw-like proboscis on their tongue is important to suck nectar and water for nourishment.

Butterflies have four wings, two hindwings and two forewings. Their wings move because of the small structures that are connects the wings to the thorax and muscles. The veins provide the wings strength and support.

The abdomen of the butterfly is composed of eleven segments. Male Monarch butterflies have a pair of claspers at the end of their abdomen. These appendages grip the female butterflies during mating.

This is how the body parts of a butterfly works.

Life Cycle of a Butterfly

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A butterfly’s life cycle is divided into four phases – the egg stage, caterpillar stage, pupa stage, and adult stage. The butterfly’s official classification is kingdom: Animalia, class: Insect a, phylum: Arthropoda, order: Lepidoptera. This means that butterflies are creatures with 6 legs and can fly. That classification covers mothers as well, which came from the scientific term Hedylid.

This maybe a bit confusing as there are a lot of insects and sentient creatures that fly. Probably, you might think why they are not considered butterflies. Well, the answer depends in the butterflies coloring. Have you ever touched dead butterfly? If you have noticed that your finger was covered of colored dust. And that dust is little scale that rub off a butterfly once you touch it.

Millions of tiny scales are covered in the wings of a butterfly, which are very small and feature roofing tiles. They also allow pattern variations and countless color of the butterflies.

Additionally, a butterfly has two kinds, the Hesperidia & Papilionoidea. The Papilionoidea butterflies are probably the type of butterfly that you usually see around. They have big flat wings which consist of hindwing and forewing. Hesperidia butterflies are also known as the skippers. They can be easily distinguished by their wing due to its cross-shaped structure.

special body parts of butterfly

Butterfly is a beautiful flying insect with big scaly wings. And just like other insects, butterflies have 6-jointed legs, and three body parts – compound eyes, antennae, and exoskeleton. The head, thorax or chest, and the abdomen or tail end are the 3 body parts.

The compound eyes are found on their head. And there are thousands of small lenses that help them see all directions, recognize movement, pattern, and color. The pair of antennae are also found in the head of a butterfly. They used their antennae to balance and taste air. The jointed legs of a butterfly are composed of six parts; the femur, coxa, tibia, pretarsus, trochanter, and tarsus.

The chemoreceptors at the end of their legs are very important for a butterfly to taste & smell. That is the reason why female butterflies can determine if the plants are suitable for them to lay their eggs. The chemoreceptors pick up particular chemical that are genetic, helping the butterfly to lay eggs on safe leaf or plant. Butterflies can also transfer food sources from one place to another by using this, chemoreceptors in their legs.

The four life stages of butterflies undergo metamorphosis completely. Each stage is important as it is part of the growing process and development of a butterfly.

butterfly with body parts

  • Egg – Butterflies start their life as egg and they often laid in a leaf.
  • Larva or caterpillar – The second life stage of the butterflies is called the larva or caterpillar. Wherein, the larva hatches and almost constantly eat leaves and flowers. The caterpillars molt or lose the old skin for many times while growing. They will increase for thousand times before pupating.
  • Pupa – The third stage is when the caterpillars turn into pupa or chrysalis. This stage is known as the resting stage.
  • Adult – This is the last stage of the butterfly’s life cycle. A beautiful and flying adult butterfly emerges. This also the time of the butterfly to reproduce. Adult stage of the life cycle of a butterfly is also called as imago. Wherein, the butterflies have fully grown, developed their wings completely and sexually mature. The wings of an adult butterfly are crinkled & wet, allowing them to get fluid from their bodies to their wings, helping them to expand. When the wings are expanded, it may take for about 30 minutes or for a couple of hours to get dry. Then, they are finally ready to use their wings and fly.

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