How Many Legs Do Butterflies Have? Fun Bug Facts For Kids

Abhijeet Modi
Oct 23, 2023 By Abhijeet Modi
Originally Published on Nov 05, 2021
Butterfly on the flower.

Butterflies are the most commonly found insects that you find in your garden flying with their abundance in colors and patterns.

From an old English word butterfléoge, the term butterfly was derived. The story behind this name was, in ancient times, the witch resembling butterflies used to steal milk and butter, and thus they got the name butterfly.

Butterflies and moths are included in the Lepidoptera order. For most people, when they take a seat down to observe a butterfly, they'll see the wings only.

The wings of a butterfly are at the end and are larger and more colorful than any other insect. They have a small body, and possibly a set of antennae. We mostly draw this structure and often miss the legs.

Yet all butterflies have their own legs. Due to their tiny size, and the reality that they're frequently tucked below the butterfly’s body, we don’t note them. It might not appear critical to have legs while wings are the primary shape of transportation, however, they play a crucial part in the butterfly’s ability to feed and reproduce.

After you have read all about these colorful insects, do check how many legs do ladybugs have and how many legs do cockroaches have?

Types Of Butterflies

These colorful insects visit mature flowers and are amongst the most popular species of insects. These bright color species are in large numbers. There are approximately 17,500 species of butterflies in the world and about 750 species are found in the US.

More than 500 species of swallowtail butterfly are present. They belong to the family of Papilionidae. They are bigger in size and are very colorful. The majority of the species is found in every continent other than Antarctica. They're found in plenty in the sub-tropical regions mainly in East Asia and Southeast Asia.

Brush-footed butterflies belong to the family, Nymphalidae and are also known as the ‘four-footed butterflies’. They have only four functional legs which are used in walking. They have brown, yellow, and white-colored wings, with spots of different colors on their undersurfaces.

American snout butterfly is from the sub-family of Libytheinae. The wingspan or the length of their wings is relatively between 1.4 - 2.0 in (3.5-5.0 cm). They are small-sized butterflies having very dull colors.

Red admiral butterfly is also referred to as a strong-flying and large butterfly. These are usually found in gardens and parks.

They belong to Ireland and Britain and have distinctive features. An interesting fact about this butterfly is that they are said to be strongly territorial, which means the female red admirals mate only with the male admirals who hold territory.

Monarch butterflies are considered the king of all and are truly the most beautiful species. Their wingspan reaches around 5 in or 12.7 cm for the most full-grown monarchs.

Karner Blue Butterflies are considered the endangered subspecies of the small blue butterfly. They are small in size and even delicate.

They are found in western and central Wisconsin and in parts of western Michigan. They are smaller in size with the wingspan of an average 1-in or 2.54 cm in both females and males, but they both look different.

Number Of Legs In Butterflies

The most beautiful insect, the butterfly, is included with species that hold the rule of six. As in, these species including butterflies have six legs and those are arranged in two sets having three on either side of its body.

These parts are further attached to the thorax. It is the second part in the three segments which make up the insect's body as in the head thorax and abdomen.

Their bodies are covered with small hairs. The sensory hair-covered bodies have pheromones that help them in tasting the host.

Gulf Fritillary butterfly on a flower.

Butterflies have six legs with interconnected sections. They are jointed legs. Each end of the legs is termed 'hooks' that allow the insects to attach surfaces by themselves while using much energy. This keeps their body in a stand-by or handy position when they are taking rest or diapause during winter.

Although having all these characteristics of legs, they evolve and adapt another function using their forelegs which gives them the purpose of performing functions like locomotion or walking.

Particularly, this species is often referred to as 'Brushfoot' butterflies in the family of Nymphalidae as they have forelegs that get reduced to an extent where they're not useful at all, become imperfect, and appears as a brush-like part.

Hence these forelegs are termed as brush foot being useless for any functions like walking.

Thus, a butterfly typically has five parts in a sequence where legs are attached to its thorax at its extreme i.e. tarsal claws.

The sequence goes like - coxa, trochanter, femur, tibia, and tarsal segments. These species have three pairs of legs namely the forelegs which are situated near its head, then the middle legs, and hind legs, while both of these two leg segments are attached to the thorax.

Do all butterflies have the same number of legs?

For most of the animals in the world, from birds to mammals, there may be very little difference in what number of legs a creature has. In the substantial majority, four has grown to be the best wide variety of legs.

In some of the species, this wide variety has been reduced to half, permitting the opposite set to grow into arms, like in the case of birds and bats, wings.

Yet, in relation to the arena of creepy crawlies, there may be an excellent array of legs they are having. May it be the eight legs of a spider or nearly infinite legs of a millipede, or to the whole thing in between. And the insects' butterflies have six legs.

For the brush-footed butterflies, the pair of front legs is decreased a lot in size, thus leading to a  shortage of claws. Thus we find only four legs in them.

Some of the species, like the Monarch butterflies' legs, are four in number. This isn't due to the fact that they've misplaced legs.

They come from the same family of Nymphalidae, or the brush-footed butterflies. All of them have six legs, however, the first pair of legs may be very decreased, and are tucked towards the thorax and hidden withinside the abdomen.

You can only be able to see those legs if you remove those with the help of tweezers. Monarchs seem like they have only four legs due to the fact the front legs are very tiny and curled up subsequent to the thorax and are not used for walking.

What do butterflies use their legs for?

We may sense like there’s no want for legs if you have wings, however, butterflies nonetheless want the legs critical for various reasons. They regularly perch on flowers to feed or to rest.

Additionally, now no longer all of them are outstanding fliers. The mountain ringlet is one of the species that doesn’t use the wings regularly and prefers walking wherever possible.

Another available and sudden venture is that butterfly legs are beneficial for tasting nectar, as they are capable of sensing the flavor on which they are standing, consequently being capable of determining if it’s appropriate to eat the nectar, and even they use this ability to pick out the proper flower to lay their eggs.

Both the butterfly and the moth develop by a process referred to as metamorphosis. There are basically four stages of metamorphosis in them as well as in moths.

They are egg, larva, pupa, and adult. The eggs are usually laid on plants or flowers by the adult female butterfly. These turn out to be the food for the hatching caterpillars.

When do butterflies grow their wings? The pupal stage for some species lasts for even two years.

We feel that nothing is happening, but actually many adjustments are going on inside, like the formation of legs, wings, eyes. The stage called chrysalis isn't always a 'resting' stage. Quite to the contrary, lots is going on inside the pupa.

The body of the caterpillar is working into a grownup butterfly. Wings are fully formed withinside the chrysalis and the antennae are formed and the chewing mouthpart of the caterpillars are converted into the sucking mouthparts of the butterfly.

After about 10 - 14 days as a chrysalis, the butterfly is prepared to come out. When the butterfly emerges from its chrysalis, its wings are small and wet, and thus are unable to fly. Then they expand their wings to the fullest and dry them, and hence are able to take their first flight.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for how many legs do butterflies have then why not take a look at how many legs do scorpions have, or blue bu

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Written by Abhijeet Modi

Master of Computer Science

Abhijeet Modi picture

Abhijeet ModiMaster of Computer Science

An experienced and innovative entrepreneur and creative writer, Abhijeet holds a Bachelor's and Master's degree in Computer Application from Birla Institute of Technology, Jaipur. He co-founded an e-commerce website while developing his skills in content writing, making him an expert in creating blog posts, website content, product descriptions, landing pages, and editing articles. Passionate about pushing his limits, Abhijeet brings both technical expertise and creative flair to his work.

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