How Do Butterflies Fly?

Butterflies use muscles to move their wings and take flight. The wings are made of a thin, translucent material called chitin that covers a framework of small veins. Butterflies need the correct weather conditions because their muscles must be warmed up before they can fly. Because the scales on their wings are used to absorb heat, butterflies take shelter during severe weather to avoid damaging them.

Butterflies have evolved to know when to avoid harsh weather conditions, as there is no way for them to repair their wings if they are damaged. Additionally, the muscles used to control their wings are paralyzed when the weather is below 55 degrees Fahrenheit, meaning they would be unable to escape from predators or find food if it was too cold.

To fly, a butterfly must obtain warmth from the sun by basking and exposing its thorax, where the muscles attach, or creating warmth with rapid movements (much like humans warm up before exercising). The best temperature range for flight is 80 to 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Flying also takes a lot of energy for butterflies, so they must find energy-rich sources of food, including sugar from flower nectar, and salt and nutrients from small puddles of water.