The Wonderful World Of Butterflies

Butterflies have fascinated us for their beauty, fragility and the mystery that surrounds their lives. For centuries, the beauty of butterflies has inspired not only the poetic and artistic imagination, but also aroused the curiosity of even young children.

It is clear that even our ancestors were moved by his behavior. When they saw thousands of butterflies migrating to “Sripada” (the holy mountain that Buddhists believe bears the footprint of the Buddha) during the pilgrimage season, they believed that the butterflies were migrating to pay tribute to the Buddha. Therefore, they came to name the most sacred mountain in Sri Lanka, Sripada, as “Samanala kanda”.

While this migration is still occurring in some areas of Sri Lanka, it could not be observed in most areas due to human interference with the environment. It is therefore sad to note that most of today’s younger generation has not seen the mesmerizing spectacle of this nature. Still, there is hope, as environmentalists and others who have expressed an interest in this issue have learned that by providing the necessary environment, we can still recreate this disappearing butterfly migration.

Researchers have found through fossil evidence that butterflies have been on this Earth for more than 30 million years. When classifying butterflies, some scientists previously described butterflies as belonging to only eleven (11) families, and later it became two (2) superfamilies and five (5) families.

Currently, most scientists have classified butterflies as belonging to three (3) superfamilies and five (5) families. They are:

1 True Butterflies – (Superfamily, Papilionoidea)

  1. Skippers-(Super family, Hesperioidea)

  2. Moth Butterflies-(Super family, Hedyloidea)

And within these superfamilies, the 05 families of butterflies are listed below:

(1) Papilionidae-described as Swallowtails, Apollo, and Birdwing Butterflies

(2) Pieridae – mainly white and yellow butterflies

(3) Lycaenidae: described as Gossamer-winged, Blues, Coppers, Hairstreaks, and Harvesters (eats harmful insects)

(4) Riodinidae: with metallic spots on the wings. They are also called ‘metal marks’

(5) Nymphalidae —Brush Butterflies.

It should be noted that butterflies are listed in the suborder Rhopalocera (club antenna) and moths in the suborder Heterocera (variegated antenna). Both suborders belong to the order Lepidoptera.

It is estimated that about 12,000-24,000 species of butterflies and about 120,000-150,000 species of moths live in this world.

According to the 2007 IUCN Red List, there are 243 species of butterflies in Sri Lanka, of which 20 species are endemic.

Differences between butterflies and moths

When studying butterflies, it is important to clearly know the difference between butterflies and moths, as there are a large number of moths compared to butterflies, so there may be confusion in identification. The main differences between a butterfly and a moth are as follows what does a white butterfly mean:


  1. The end of the antenna is a bump. However, skipper butterflies have a hockey stick formation at the end of their antennae.

  2. Normally holds wings together while resting

  3. Have tall and slim bodies

  4. Normally active during the day, evening and early morning

  5. The caterpillar has few spines or hairs. They are not poisonous.


  1. Some antennae are long and pointed at the end; most of the antennae have hairs, as in the feathers of a bird.

  2. Normally keep the wings straight while resting.

  3. Have flat or round bodies

  4. Normally active at night (attracted to light)

  5. The caterpillar has many spines or hairs. They’re poisonous

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