Parts of a Butterfly: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Kelley Lipke

Kelley has been teaching middle school for six years and has a master's degree in educational administration.

Butterflies are beautiful creatures that we can see fluttering around on warm, sunny days. In this lesson, you will learn what a butterfly is as well as the parts it is made of.

What Is a Butterfly?

A butterfly is a winged insect that lives in all types of climates. Although they can be found in many locations around the world, they prefer warm temperatures and will migrate to avoid cooler weather. Think back to a time when you saw one flying around your yard. Did you see what it was made of? Most of us probably haven't been able to get a close-up look of these insects because they are quite small in size and can fly up to a speed of 12 miles per hour! Well, butterflies are made up of three main parts including the head, thorax, and abdomen. Keep reading to learn more about these flying insects!

A monarch butterfly
monarch butterfly

The Head

A butterfly's head is where the eyes, antennae, and proboscis (pronounced proh-bos-is) are located. To begin, the two eyes are made of lenses that are in the shape of hexagons. This type of eye design allows butterflies to focus on different shades of light.

Next, the two antennae are attached to the top of the butterfly's head. These help by providing butterflies with a sense of smell and balance. Can you imagine smelling out of antennae instead of a nose? Butterflies don't have noses, and they also lack a jaw. Instead of using teeth to chew food, butterflies have a long, soft tube that extends so they can sip up liquids. This tube is known as the proboscis, and is similar to what we know as a tongue. This means butterflies are only able to consume liquid food.

A peacock butterfly using its proboscis to sip nectar.
butterfly proboscis

The Thorax

The thorax is the little, round section just below the head. The thorax contains the wings and legs, making it important for movement. In total, butterflies have six legs. The two front legs are typically shorter than the others and are mostly used for cleaning the antennae. The four longer legs help butterflies walk and have claws on the ends, which allow them to grasp and hold on to their surroundings such as branches, leaves, and even park benches. In addition, their feet contain sensory organs that help them taste food.

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