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Butterflies of the Rain Forest

Assortment of butterflies (Illustration copyrighted, Films for Christ. Artist: Heather Taylor.)

Butterflies are among the most beautiful and marvelous creatures in all of nature. Tropical Central and South America is the richest region in the world for butterflies, but they are found in many other places as well. Costa Rica has over 1300 species.

A butterfly's life begins with a very tiny egg laid on a leaf. From this develops a larva, the butterfly's caterpillar stage. Eventually, the larva makes a cocoon or chrysalis. Safe inside, it develops into a pupa. Eventually, a beautiful butterfly is released from this container, flying heavenward, fully-developed. What an astounding transformation, from a humble, earth bound worm-like creature to a delicate flying wonder!

The adult usually eventually returns to the very plant or tree trunk where it grew up. There it lays its own eggs and begins the process anew (a 2 to 3 month cycle).

Blue White Papilio Lepidoptera (photo copyrighted).

Did you know that…


The color in a butterfly's wings does not come from pigment. The color is produced prism-like by light reflected by their transparent wing scales.


Stranger yet, no moth or butterfly eats solid food (though some butterflies drink nectar); some can not even take in moisture.


The life span of most butterflies is very short, usually just enough to lay their eggs.

Monarch Butterflies Butterfly

Many butterflies migrate from one region to another, either individually or in swarms. The greatest migration in North America occurs when companies of Monarch butterflies travel from Canada southward to Central America. When they finally roost at their destination, so many crowd the forest that entire trees appear to be covered with bright orange moving leaves!


It is a great mystery how the descendants of these Monarchs later find their way back north to their summering place. Stranger yet, their great-great-grandchildren later find their way back south to the tree of their great-great-grandparents. Their Creator designed them with truly amazing abilities!


The world's fastest butterfly is the Monarch with a record of 17 miles per hour. 1


The brain capabilities of these small insects is mind-boggling. In a space often no bigger than a speck, their Creator designed a sophisticated brain that enables them to see, smell, taste, fly and navigate with such great precision that they can travel enormous distances and find the very tree where their great-great-great-grandmother laid an egg.

Their highly-miniaturized brains put our computers and aircraft avionics to shame. Who could make a self-propelled, self-guided airplane as small as a butterfly that could do the same things, totally independently? Traveling so many miles, landing many times, making so many accurate, in-flight navigation corrections, and doing it all with so little fuel - and then reproduce itself at the end? No one but God could make such a marvelous creature as a butterfly.

Caligo Eurilocheus Moth (photo copyrighted)

God created butterflies and moths in many different shapes and color patterns.

This moth has spots that make it appear to have large eyes that are looking at you! Perhaps this scares away predators. Moths are much more common than butterflies.

Brown Papilio lepidoptera (photo copyrighted)

Doesn't this little creature look just like a leaf?!

Do you know the difference between a moth and a butterfly?

Butterflies are active during the day, moths at night. As a result, they have different lifestyles and adaptations.

Butterflies close their wings when they rest; moths open them. A butterfly antenna is knobbed or club-shaped; moth's are various shapes (not usually clubbed). A butterfly's body is long, slender, not hairy; a moth's is short, stout, and usually hairy. Moths can be destructive.


The largest butterfly in the world is the Giant Birdwing from the Solomon Islands. The female can have a wing span of over 12 inches, that's over a foot long! When he lands on your nose; he covers your face! 1 (photos of Birdwings - off-site)

ButterflyThe smallest butterfly ever found was only half an inch long lengthwise. 1

Author: Paul and Heather Taylor, Films for Christ


  1. Norris and Ross McWhirter, Guinness Book of World Records (New York, NY: Sterling Publishing Co., Inc., 1975), pg. 99.
  2. Learn more about Monarch butterflies at
  3. Learn more about many butterflies and their life cycles at Butterflies and Moths, The Butterfly Website, Butterfly Gallery, International Federation of Butterfly Enthusiasts

Visit a butterfly farm in Costa Rica (off-site)

Butterfly (Illustration copyrighted. Animation: Paul S. Taylor.) You can color your own beautiful butterfly! Go More coloring pages

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