Hold a butterfly or moth and you’ll likely end up with some dust on your fingers. What is that mysterious stuff? And what does it do?
- The dust on butterflies’ and moths’ wings isn’t dust at all, but tiny scales. The scales probably have several purposes.
- The scales create bright colors that might signal a mate or they act as camouflage, allowing butterflies and moths to blend into their surroundings.
- The bright colors of a butterfly’s wings sometimes tell predators that the butterfly doesn’t taste good or is even poison. The colors are like an advertisement that says, “Don’t eat me.”
- Dark colors on the wings might help the butterfly gather warmth from the sun. Remember, butterflies are cold-blooded and need warmth from the environment to fly and look for food.
- Scales: small bits of a material that usually lay in an overlapping pattern
- Predator: an animal interested in eating the butterfly
Questions and Answers
Question: Will touching a butterfly’s wings prevent it from flying?
Answer: Butterflies are tougher than you might think. Painted lady butterflies, for example, migrate over 4,000 miles. Butterflies have been found high in the mountains at altitudes of 15,000 feet. And researchers have discovered that butterflies flap their wings an average of 20 times per second.
In fact, butterflies lose their scales all the time through their daily activities. You might notice an older butterfly with wings that are faded or even clear because the scales have rubbed off.
The short answer is that you probably won’t damage a butterfly by touching it gently. To hold a butterfly, grasp its wings so they are closed, holding it firmly but gently. Use a butterfly net, not a jar, to catch butterflies. Butterflies can hurt their wings if they flap against a hard surfaced container.
Visit the Amazing Butterfly Store to learn more.
Cite This Page
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MLA Style Citation
Declan, Tobin. " What is the powder on butterflies’ wings? ." Easy Science for Kids, Jun 2018. Web. 19 Jun 2018. < http://easyscienceforkids.com/butterfly-wings/ >.
APA Style Citation
Tobin, Declan. (2018). What is the powder on butterflies’ wings?. Easy Science for Kids. Retrieved from http://easyscienceforkids.com/butterfly-wings/
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