Butterflies are insects in the Rhopalocera macrolepidóptero clade, of the order Lepidoptera, which also includes butterflies. Adult butterflies have large wings, often colored, and a visible and floating flight. The group includes the large superfamily Papilionoidea, which contains at least one previous group, the captains (formerly the “Hesperioidea” superfamily), and the most recent analyzes suggest that it also contains the butterfly butterflies (formerly the “Hedyloidea” superfamily). Butterfly fossils date back to the Paleocene, some 56 million years ago.
Butterflies have the typical life cycle of four-stage insects. The winged adults deposit eggs in the food plant in which their larvae, known as caterpillars, feed. The caterpillars grow, sometimes very quickly, and when fully developed, pupate in a chrysalis. When the metamorphosis is complete, the skin of the pupa divides, the adult insect rises and, after its wings have expanded and dried, it flies. Some butterflies, especially in the tropics, have several generations in a year, while others have only one generation, and some in cold places can take several years to go through their entire life cycle.
Butterflies are often polymorphic, and many species make use of camouflage, mimicry and aposematism to escape their predators. Some, like the monarch and the painted lady, migrate for long distances. Many butterflies are attacked by parasites or parasitoids, including wasps, protozoa, flies and other invertebrates, or are attacked by other organisms. Some species are pests because in their larval stages they can damage domestic crops or trees; other species are pollination agents of some plants. The larvae of some butterflies (for example, harvesters) eat noxious insects, and some 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.
Butterflies in their adult stage can live from a week to almost a year, depending on the species. Many species have long stages of larval life, while others can remain asleep in their pupal or egg stages and survive winters. The Melissa Arctic (Oeneis melissa) dominates twice as a caterpillar. Butterflies can have one or more young per year. The number of generations per year varies from temperate to tropical regions, with tropical regions showing a tendency to multivoltism.
Courtship is often aerial and often involves pheromones. Butterflies, then, perch on the ground or on a rack to mate. Copulation occurs from end to end and can last from minutes to hours. The single band cells located in the genitals are important for this and other adult behaviors. The male passes a spermatophore to the female; to reduce sperm competition, you can cover it with your perfume, or in some species, such as the Apollos (Parnassius), connect your genital opening to prevent it from appearing again.
The vast majority of butterflies have a four-stage life cycle; ovo, larva (caterpillar), pupa (chrysalis) and imago (adult). In the genera Colias, Erebia, Euchloe and Parnassius, a small number of species is known and reproduced semi-systematically; When the female dies, a partially developed larva emerges from her abdomen.