Overview of Butterflies
Description of Butterflies
Life Cycle of Butterflies
Sixty-six species of butterflies, encompassing five butterfly families
(sixteen subfamilies), have been identified through longterm research
at Sky Meadows State Park. The following inventory of butterflies was
created by Scott Baron of the Washington Area Butterfly Club; data was
collected by Scott Baron, Mary Alexander and Steven Malone.
Information for butterfly species was obtained from three primary sources.
Sky Meadows State Park has extensive records of butterfly species occurr-
ing in the park. These records provided the inventory of species included in
this section. The Montana State University and Big Sky Institute's The
Butterflies and Moths of North America (BAMONA) project provided the
"core" database for most species information as well as general entry
structure. Additional information from other sources has been "integrated"
with the BAMONA. Wikipedia provided the third primary source of inform-
ation - entries pertaining to butterfly families and subfamilies.
The following information is employed for each species of butterfly listed
in the Nature Guide. It is directly derived from the format used by by
The Butterflies and Moths of North America project conducted by
Montana State University and the Big Sky Institute.
CITATION: The common mammal name followed by the current scientific
CONFIRMATION STATUS: Three category status of confirmation -
not confirmed, pending confirmation, and confirmed. Not confirmed is
assigned to a species that is known to occur in the region, but has not
been observed in Sky Meadow Park. Pending confirmation is assigned
to a species that has been observed in Sky Meadows Park but still needs
identification by a recognized authority. Confirmed is assigned to a species
that has both been observed in Sky Meadows Park and has been identified
by a recognized authority.
FAMILY: Common family name and scientific nomenclature.
SUBFAMILY: Common subfamily name and scientific nomenclature.
IDENTIFICATION: General identiifying characteristics of each species.
LIFE HISTORY: General developmental stages and characteristics.
FLIGHT: Seasonal information pertaining to flight characteristics.
WING SPAN: Wind span measured in inches and centimeters.
CATERPILLAR HOSTS: Plant hosts for propogation.
ADULT FOOD: General plant food sources.
HABITAT: General habitat types generally associated with species.
RANGE: General geographical range species can be expected to be found.
CONSERVATION: General conservation status.
NATURESERVE GLOBAL STATUS: Global conservation status.
MANAGEMENT NEEDS: Environmental needs and management con-
siderations for successful management of species.
Overview of Butterflies
Butterflies and moths are members of a taxonomic group of insects
called Lepidoptera. Lepidoptera is a large order of insects that
includes moths and butterflies (called lepidopterans). It is one of
the most speciose orders in the Class Insecta, encompassing moths
and the three superfamilies of butterflies, skipper butterflies, and
moth-butterflies and found virtually everywhere. Lepidoptera
contains more than 180,000 species in 128 families and 47
superfamilies. The name is derived from ancient Greek λεπίδος
(scale) and πτερόν (wing). Estimates of species suggest that the order
may have more species and is among the four largest, successful orders,
along with the Hymenoptera, Diptera, and the Coleoptera.
Description of Butterflies
Species of the order Lepidoptera are commonly characterized as being
covered in scales, having two large compound eyes, and a elongated
mouthpart called a proboscis. Almost all species have membranous
wings, except for a few who have crossvein wings. Thought the larva
are completely different in form, having a cylindrical body with a well
developed head, mandible mouthparts, and from 0–11 leg (usually 8).
The Butterfly Life Cycle
The following information is included in the Sky Meadows State Park
Butterflies brochure, published by the Department of Conservation and
Recreation (2010). It is presented here with minor editing changes.
To grow into an adult, a butterfly goes through four stages: 1) egg, 2)
larva, 3) pupa, and 4) adult stages. Each stage or cycle has a different
goal - for instance, caterpillars need an abundance of food, while adults
need to reproduce.
All butterflies go through a "complete metamorphosis", meaning they
transform from a juvenile to an adult in two or more distinct stages.
Depending on the species of butterfly, their life span may take anywhere
from one month to a year.
The First Stage: The Egg
A butterfly starts life as a very small, round, oval or cylindrical egg. The
"coolest" thing about butterfly eggs, especially monarch butterfly eggs, is
that if you look close enough you actually see the tiny caterpillar growing
inside. Butterfly eggs are usually laid on the leaves of plants, so if you are
actively searching for these very tiny eggs, you will have to take some
time and examine quite a few leaves in order to find them.
The Second Stage: The Larva (Capterpillar)
Butterfly larvae are actually what we call caterpillars. Caterpillars do not
stay in this stage for very long and all they do is eat so they can grow quick-
ly. When the egg hatches, the caterpillar immediately begins to eat the leaf
it was born onto. It is very important that the female butterfly lay her eggs
on the type of leaf the caterpillar will eat for two reasons: 1) the cater-
pillars are tiny and cannot travel to a new plant, and 2) each caterpillar
species prefers only certain types of leave. As soon as they start eating,
they grow by "molting" (shedding the outgrown skin) several times while
The Third Stage: Pupa (Chrysalis)
As soon as the caterpillar has reached its full size, it forms into a pupa,
also known as a chrysalis. Inside the pupa, the caterpillar is rapidly
changing and undergoing a remarkable transformation, called meta-
morphosis, to become the beautiful butterfly that will emerge. The tissue,
limbs and organs of the caterpillar have all been changed by the time the
pupa is finished, and is now ready for the final stage of a butterfly's life
The Fourth and Final Stage: Adult Butterfly
Finally, when the caterpillar has done all of its forming and changing
inside the pupa, the adult butterfly emerges. Both of the wings are soft
and folded against its body. this is because the butterfly had to fit all its
new parts inside the pupa. As soon as the butterfly has rested after
coming out of the chrysalis, it will pump blood into the wings in order to
get them working and flapping. Usually within a three or four hour period,
the butterfly will master flying and will search for a mate in order to
reproduce. When in the fourth and final stage of their lives, adult butter-
flies are constantly seeking to reproduce and when a female lays eggs on
some leaves, the butterfly life cycle will start all over.
Crooked Run Valley