Butterflies are insects in the macrolepidopteran clade Rhopalocera from the order , which also includes moths.

Adult butterflies have large, often brightly colored wings, and conspicuous, fluttering flight.

The group comprises the large superfamily Papilionoidea, which contains at least one former group, the skippers, and the most recent analyses suggest it also contains the -butterflies.

fossils date to the Paleocene, about 56 million years ago.


Butterflies have a four-stage life cycle, as like most they undergo complete metamorphosis.

Winged adults lay on the on which their larvae, known as caterpillars, will feed.

The caterpillars grow, sometimes very rapidly, and when fully developed, pupate in a chrysalis.

When metamorphosis is complete, the pupal splits, the adult climbs out, and after its wings have expanded and dried, it flies off.

Some butterflies, especially in the tropics, have several generations in a year, while others have a single generation, and a few in cold locations may take several years to pass through their entire life cycle.

Butterflies are often polymorphic, and many make use of camouflage, mimicry, and aposematism to evade their predators.

Some, like the  and the painted lady, migrate over long distances.

Many butterflies are attacked by parasites or parasitoids, including , protozoans, flies, and other invertebrates, or are preyed upon by other organisms.

Some are pests because in their larval stages they can damage domestic crops or trees; other are agents of  of some .

Larvae of a few butterflies eat harmful , and a few are predators of ants, while others live as mutualists in association with ants.

Culturally, butterflies are a popular motif in the visual and literary arts.

The Smithsonian Institution says “butterflies are certainly one of the most appealing creatures in ”.

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