- As there are so many breeds of butterfly, not all of which are known, butterflies are more commonly categorized into family type. The family types are fritillaries, hairstreaks, monarchs, nymphalids, skippers and swallowtails.
Monarchs are known to be brightly colored but poisonous. Nympalids are defined by the tricarinate ridges found on the adult butterfly's antennae. The hairstreak butterflies have wide postmedian bands. Swallowtails have tail-like extensions of their hind wings. Skippers are the closest family type to the moth.
- Different breeds of butterflies live the world over, in every continent except Antarctica. They are particularly attracted to warmth and sunshine, so they frequent countries that experience a tropical climate year round. Costa Rica, the United States, South East Asia and Eastern Africa have the densest butterfly populations. The monarch is the most common type of butterfly in North America.
- The size of butterflies differs greatly depending on breed, from the size of a fingernail to an 11-inch wingspan. A general rule is that the more tropical the climate, the bigger the butterfly is likely to be. The female is usually far larger than her male counterparts. The largest butterfly in North America is the giant swallowtail, with a wingspan of between 2 and 4 inches.
Color and Markings
- Breeds of butterfly that live in tropical climates are the most colorful. The color of the butterfly signifies a warning to other animals that it is poisonous if it is bright.
Markings define the breed or family type of butterflies. Some have an eye or spot pattern on each wing. The monarch is famously striped, and the swallowtail has a plainer, more moth-like appearance.