When learning more about butterflies, you might have come across the word Lepidoptera. But what does that mean? And how does it relate to our fluttering friends?
In entomology (the study of insects) insects are divided into main groups depending on their species. The six main groups are Coleoptera ( beetles), Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths), Hymenoptera (wasps, bees, ants, and sawflies), Diptera (flies, mosquitos, gnats), Hemiptera (cicadas, aphids, and shield bugs), and Orthoptera (grasshoppers, locusts, and crickets).
As mentioned above, butterflies and moths belong to the group Lepidoptera. With 180,000 species of moths and butterflies this group is only second in size to beetles. Lepidopterans:
- Have scale covered bodies, wings, and a proboscis. The word Lepidoptera is greek for scaly wing!
- Have a four-stage life cycle of egg, larva, pupa, and adult.
- Undergo a complete metamorphosis, changing into their adult form either in a chrysalis (butterflies) or a cocoon (moths).
Lepidopterans are important to the ecosystem because they are pollinators, and they provide food to a variety of animal species. Someone who studies butterflies and moths is called a lepidopterist-- and when you're observing and raising your butterflies, that's you!