Is a Butterfly an Insect? [Insect Identification]

Is a butterfly an insect? This is one of the most searched questions by viewers, as everyone is eager to know more about this beautiful creature.

What are they? What similar characteristics do they even have with insects? Should they even be compared? This simple yet tough question is what this article is determined to answer and make simple for readers to understand.

After reading this article, and you are asked “Hey, is a butterfly an insect?” You will immediately give an answer to this question with a smile on your face.

Without further ado, grab those wings, flap flap, and let’s pollinate your mindset with this scented information.


Interesting Top Picks About the Butterfly

Before getting to know the butterfly diet, you should have a little knowledge about these wonderful winged creatures. Below are magnified points to be noted about the butterfly:

  • Flight: A butterfly will only be able to fly if its body temperature is above 86 degrees Celsius.
  • Wings: The wings of a butterfly will begin to fade as it starts ageing (getting older).
  • Species: Some species of butterflies are poisonous, while others are not (the poisonous ones are slower in flight than the less poisonous butterflies).
  • Veins: Butterflies have veins that nourish them with blood.
  • Lifecycle: A butterfly undergoes complete metamorphosis (from egg to larva to pupa to adult butterfly).
  • Environment: Butterflies can be found in every type of environment.
  • Migration: Some butterflies migrate short distances, while others migrate thousands of miles.
  • Classification: Butterflies belong to the order Lepidoptera.
  • Population: There are about 28, 000 species of butterflies in the world.
  • Diet: Butterflies feed on a variety of things, from nectar to animal excretion and even bugs.


Read also: Are Spiders Insects? Webbing the Spider Verse


What Does a Butterfly Look Like?

Is A Butterfly An Insect
Picture of a Butterfly

We can’t be so sure about describing a butterfly as an insect unless we first describe and compare its similarities with theirs (insects). Below are various body parts that can be seen visibly and help identify butterflies:

  • The Mouthpart of a Butterfly:

Insects are known to have different mouthparts that adapt to different classifications of feeding, from piercing and sucking to biting and chewing, and finally, those who bore holes in their food.

Butterflies fall under the classification of food suckers. The mouthpart of a butterfly is the sucking type and is most suitable for drawing out nectar from flowers.

Immature butterflies do not develop these abilities yet but have chewing mouthparts instead, but when they grow into adults, they develop sucking mouthparts. Below are the features of the butterfly’s mouthpart:

    • When they feed, their proboscis unfolds into a straw-like shape to suck nectar and later returns to its original coiled structure after feeding.
    • They lack mandibles and hypopharynx.
    • They possess labial and maxillary palps in a reduced condition.
    • The labium reduces to a triangular plate that bears the labial palps.


Read also: Where Do Butterflies Live? Discover Their Habitat


  • The Wings of a Butterfly:

Butterflies are very good at flying and have one of the most beautiful wings in the world. The wing of a butterfly is another great way of identifying if this wonder is an insect or a bird, etc. Well, let’s find out.

Butterflies have four wings that are glued to the mesothorax (the middle segment of the thorax carrying the forewings) and the metathorax (the segment of the thorax that carries the hindwings).

The muscles in the thorax are responsible for the movement of the wings up and down during flight.

    • Veins:

The wings of butterflies are made up of two chitinous layers that are nourished and assisted by tubular veins. The veins also help with breathing (the exchange of oxygen).

The pattern of veins for every genus of butterflies is different and is one of the main criteria for classifying butterflies by taxonomists.

    • Scales:

The wings of these beautiful creatures are covered with colourful scales, which are modified outgrowths of the body wall.

The front and back of the wings usually have different scale patterns and overlap the wings. Each scale comprises a flat plate arising from a single cell on the wing surface.

Not all butterflies have the same shape of scale as they vary in shape, some are shaped like plumes while some are rectangular. A scale may measure about 50 microns and be 100 microns long.

Some wings have a translucent appearance while in some tropical genera such as the Ithomia, and the Lamproptera the scales are absent from large areas of the wings, causing almost complete transparency.

  • The Head of a Butterfly:

Of course, every living creature must have a head, which houses the brain, eyes, mouth, etc. The butterfly is no exception in this case. The head of a butterfly comprises these parts:

    • The Antenna: is a sensory external body protruding that is attached to a butterfly’s head and used for the sense of smell and balance. Each antenna has a small club at its end.
    • The Compound Eyes: They have compound eyes made up of hexagonal lenses that focus light from each part of their field of view into a translucent cylinder forming part of the light-sensitive receptor in the eye, otherwise known as the rhabdom. These anthropods can see ultraviolet rays, which we cannot.
    • The Proboscis
    • The Labial Palp
    • The Labrum
    • The Labium
  • The Leg of a Butterfly:

A butterfly has 6 legs, not 4 as many would say.


The body of a butterfly is divided into 3 body segments, the head, thorax, and abdomen.

With these classifications, you have an idea of the butterfly anatomy and can now easily identify one when you see one. Now, is a butterfly an insect? Well, let us find out!


Read also: What do Butterflies Eat? Magnifying the Butterfly Diet


What is an Insect?

An insect is any member of the class Insecta and belongs to the phylum Arthropoda, which itself is the largest of the animal phyla. Insects have segmented bodies, which are divided into:

  • The Head: Bears the eyes, the antenna, and the mouthpart.
  • The Thorax: Bears the legs and the wings as well.
  • The Abdomen: Bears the digestive, excretory, and reproductive organs.

Insects have jointed legs and an exoskeleton and are distinguished from other arthropods by their body segments.

Insects are in many ways beneficial to humans, as they:

  • Help in the pollination of flowers
  • Can be used for research purposes
  • Serve as environmental indicators to assess water quality and soil contamination
  • Produce useful substances
  • Serve as a source of food
  • Help in the control of pests (they are sometimes the pests)

Insects are the most successful group of animals, as they have a wide distribution rate and adaptability.


Is a Butterfly an Insect?

With every point mentioned above, you should be able to answer the question put before you: Is a butterfly an insect? Well, to provide your mindset with standard clarity, let’s get things straight.

The answer to this question is yes, the butterfly is an insect, and if you doubt this answer, below is proof:

  • A butterfly is an arthropod, which formally makes it an insect.
  • It has 3 body segments: the head, the thorax, and the abdomen.
  • It belongs to the class Insecta.
  • It belongs to the order of insects, Lepidoptera.
  • Butterflies have 6 legs, just like other insects.
  • A butterfly has 2 pairs of antennae and an exoskeleton, just like an insect.

With this proof, you would agree with us that a butterfly truly is an insect.



There are a lot of mistakes people make when it comes to nature, such as in the case of the butterfly. People often mistake the butterfly for a moth; they are not sure if a butterfly is an insect; and they are sometimes confused about what butterflies eat.

Luckily, this article has been able to answer one of these many questions: Is a butterfly an insect? Alas! it is.

For more information, contact us and submit your contributions or queries. We are glad to have been of help to you and urge you to subscribe to get more info about pests, pets, and animals as well. Thank you!

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