A mass of monarch butterflies flying

Butterflies and moths

Elegant and beautiful, butterflies and moths never fail to impress. Their bodies are covered in tiny sensory hairs and their wings made up of tiny delicate scales. It is these scales that give the wings their extraordinary variety of colours, patterns and sometimes iridescence. All butterflies and moths go through a four-stage life cycle: egg, caterpillar, pupa and adult. A complete metamorphosis takes place when a pupa emerges as a winged adult. Antarctica is the only continent where these insects are not to be found. Otherwise they are widely distributed with the majority of the 175,000 species living in the tropics. There are ten times more species of moth than butterfly.

How to identify common garden butterflies.

Scientific name: Lepidoptera

Rank: Order

Common names:


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Discover what these behaviours are and how different plants and animals use them.

Additional data source: Animal Diversity Web

Fossil types

Learn more about the other animals and plants that also form these fossils.

Amber Amber
Amber owes its existence to the defence mechanisms of certain kinds of tree. When the bark is punctured or infected, a sticky resin oozes out to seal the damage and sterilise the area.


  1. Life
  2. Animals
  3. Arthropods
  4. Insects
  5. Butterflies and moths

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