Butterflies exist within the order Lepidoptera, a word derived from the Greek words "lepido" (scale) and "ptera" (wings), which refer to the scales that cover the wings of most adult butterflies. Butterfly wings vary in color and pattern from species to species, making most easy to identify from a distance. Scientists have identified about 17,500 different species of butterflies, spread throughout almost the entire world with more species identified each year.
The Maine Butterfly Survey, conducted in 2015, through a joint effort by Maine Inland Fisheries and Wildlife and several other partner agencies, lists over one-hundred different butterflies as “breeding residents” or those butterflies most common to the state of Maine.
Perhaps the most amazing of Maine’s butterflies is the Katahdin Arctic (Oeneis polixenes katahdin). This medium-sized (1.5 inch), yellowish-brown subspecies of the arctic tundra butterfly is found no where else in the world but the summit of Mt. Katahdin in Baxter State Park. On windless days with no rain, that Katahdin arctic can be seen by an astute observer flitting over and among the Tablelands granite boulders and sparse growth of grasses and sedges. Because of its isolation, limited distribution and small population, the state currently lists the Katahdin Arctic as endangered.
From egg to adult, butterflies undergo a series of physical changes known as metamorphosis. This process all begins, when female butterflies deposit their eggs on a suitable plant. Caterpillars hatch from the eggs and feed voraciously to help fuel the change process. When the time is right, caterpillars find a sheltered spot to form a chrysalis from which fully developed winged adult emerge to begin the cycle anew.
While many different birds and animals feed upon butterflies, by far the greatest threat to this winged insect comes from habitat loss cause by human encroachment into their territory.
Wildlife Quiz Questions:
1. What does the Greek word “lepido” mean?
2. What does the Greek word “ptera” mean?
3. How many species of butterflies exist?
4. According to the Maine Butterfly Survey, how many different species of butterflies can commonly be found in Maine?
5. What is the name of the species of butterfly that only exists on Mt. Katahdin’s expansive Tablelands?
6. What is the life cycle of the butterfly called?
7. What is the name of the structure caterpillars create to protect themselves during their transition into a butterfly.
8. What animal species poses the greatest threat to butterflies?
Wildlife Quiz Answers:
1. The Greek word “lepido” means “scale”.
2. The Greek word “ptera” means “wings”.
3. Scientists have identified about 17,500 different species of butterflies.
4. Over one-hundred species of butterflies can commonly be found in Maine.
5. The species of butterfly that only exists on Mt. Katahdin’s expansive Tablelands is the Katahdin Arctic butterfly.
6. The life cycle of the butterfly is called metamorphosis.
7. The structure caterpillars create to protect themselves during their transition into a butterfly is called a chrysalis.
8. The animal species posing the greatest threat to butterflies is man.
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