Butterflies are incredible creatures! Humans have been entranced with their varicolored wings and delicate forms forever. Here, we answer just a few of the most common questions about these vibrant visitors:

Are Butterflies Insects? Indeed, they are. We tend to think of insects as “bugs,” pesty little irritators like ants and beetles. It can be surprising for some people to learn that graceful butterflies are also insects, which is a term that includes all creatures which share these five traits: an exoskeleton, a pair of antennae, a three-part body (head, thorax, and abdomen), three pairs of jointed legs, and compound eyes.

Can Butterflies see their own wings? Butterflies can, in fact, see their own wings! Butterflies have compound eyes which give them a nearly 360-degree (up to 344 degrees for some species) field of vision, both vertically and horizontally. Basically, they can see behind themselves. Not only that, but butterflies can see more colors than humans, even into the ultraviolet spectrum. Scientists have discovered that one species, the common bluebottle, has developed fifteen different types of photo receptors, as compared to humans having four. This means they can differentiate between many more hues than we can.

Do Butterflies bite? The short answer is, no. Butterflies simply don’t have the right equipment (though a few types of moths do). Caterpillars— the larval stage of the Butterfly —do have mouthparts for tearing and eating all the leaves they need to grow strong for the next stage of life, the pupa, when they form the chrysalis and transform. Once they reach the adult stage—that majestic, winged wonder, the butterfly!—they eat only nectar. Since nectar is liquid, their bitey-bits have been replaced by a long, straw-like proboscis, through which they delicately sip the delectable syrup.

Does touching a butterfly harm it? It really depends. Handling butterflies roughly can hurt them, touching one gently and carefully probably won’t hurt it, but too much even gentle handling can affect the butterfly’s quality of life. Butterfly wings are covered with tiny, colorful, overlapping scales, which strengthen and stabilize the wing. If too many scales scrape off, it will disrupt the colors and patterns on the wings, which are essential for camouflage, attracting mates, confusing predators, and regulating the butterfly’s temperature. If way too many scales are lost, it can affect their flight. Butterfly wings are also vulnerable to breaking and tearing, so be sure to avoid anything which could crush, pinch, poke, rub, or rip, and hard surfaces they might smack against.

Do Butterflies Really Taste with Their Feet? Yes. Yes, they do. Because mammals both taste and ingest food with the same area of our bodies, it’s bizarre to consider that these two functions don’t have to be close together. Butterflies do have some sense of taste in their proboscises (and some on their antennae), but most of their tasting is done with the chemoreceptors on their feet, through which they can distinguish sweet, salty, sour, and bitter. They can check for nutritious plants and mineral rich puddles, and they even use tase to select the perfect host plant on which to lay their eggs. They really use taste to explore and interact with their surroundings.

There are so many more reasons to love butterflies, some strange, some shocking, all amazing! Check your area for opportunities to learn more, and add butterfly-friendly plants to your garden to invite some fluttering friends over to your house!