Monday, October 15, 2012

Butterflies & Moths 2

Here is the detailed lesson on butterflies and moths I used to teach my class:

Butterflies & Moths
  • Both are Insects: They have six legs, two pairs of wings, and are segmented into a head, a thorax and an abdomen; They have an exoskeleton

  • They drink from their proboscis, like a straw

  • They smell with their antennae and taste with their feet

  • They have compound eyes and can see everywhere at once.

  • They go through a complete metamorphosis, meaning "changing shape" to become a butterfly.
    • No one but Allah knows how they do it, but caterpillars completely dissolve into a liquid inside their chrysalis/cocoon & re-form into a butterfly/moth. Inside, the pupa grows six legs, wings, a proboscis & antennae. 
  • They are found everywhere on earth except Antarctica and can be as large as 12 inches wide

  • Their four wings are covered in tiny, colorful scales

  • Most butterflies have very brightly colored wings and long, narrow, and smooth bodies

  • Butterflies are often more colorful than moths because butterflies are active during the day.

  • Butterflies and moths rely on different senses to help them find food.  

  • Because butterflies are active during the day, color is important for them to live- they like to drink from brightly colored flowers.

  • Most butterflies have club-shaped antennae or antennae with knobs on the end.

  • Life cycle: Egg, Caterpillar, Pupa (chrysalis, chrysalides), Butterfly
  •  **Butterflies form a chrysalis **
    • Female butterflies and moths lay eggs only on plants that will be the correct food for the larvae when they hatch.
  • Life cycle: Egg, Caterpillar, Pupa (cocoon), Moth
  •  **Moths form cocoons**

  • Most moths have short, fat, and furry looking bodies

  • Moths are nocturnal, which is why they are dark-colored, most moths have dull, earthy colored wings. Since moths are active at night, these earthy colors camouflage or help them hide while they sleep during the day. They cannot rely on visible color to help them find food.  Instead, moths rely on smell.  

  • Their antennae look like feathers or taper to a point

  • Moths’ feather-like antennae have greater surface area than the club-shaped antennae of butterflies.  This allows them to detect scents.  

  • Moths are often attracted to night-blooming flowers with strong smells.

  • Moths have a thicker coating of scales than butterflies, giving them a furry appearance.  These heavy scales help keep them from losing heat during the night when they are most active.

Show: Butterfly & Moth specimens & book: Butterflies (Seymour Simon)
Read: Are You a Butterfly?

Butterfly habits
As caterpillars they eat leaves; as adults, they drink nectar from flowers & the juice of rotting fruit.
Butterflies warm themselves on a warm stone in the mornings before they start their day. It helps them to fly.
They can see red, green and yellow.
Some live only for 1 week, while other species live up to a year.

Spotlight on Monarchs
Their chrysalis looks like jewelry, it is green with gold dots around the top.
Monarch butterflies migrate, or fly south for the winter just like birds do.
They fly a distance as far as from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico every year. They only make the trip one time, but somehow their babies know where to go to find their way back to the very same place their ancestors began.
They save energy by gliding on warm air called "thermals" since they have such a long trip.
They eat milkweed as a caterpillar, which makes them taste really bad and whatever predator eats them usually feels sick enough to never want to try them again.
The Viceroy has wings that are an example of mimicry- it looks a lot like a monarch- so that predators see it and might leave it alone. It protects them from being eaten.

Butterflies you can see in MD
There are lots of kinds of butterflies in MD. Some that I have seen in my yard are Tiger Swallowtails, Black Swallowtails, Monarchs, and Cloudless Sulphurs. The correct way to hold a butterfly or moth is to put your finger out and gently scoot it under its legs. Never grab its wings. It is a myth that it won't be able to fly if you touch its wings, BUT it's a good idea to leave its wings untouched if possible because you could hurt them or break them if you are too rough.

At the end of class, I gave them a craft to take home and encouraged them to decorate the wings with markers and/or draw veins on the wings.

Look out for a follow-up post on Thursday for Recommended Reading and other suggestions and links!

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