Where Do Butterflies Live? - Lesson for Kids

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  • 0:03 Range
  • 0:58 Migrating
  • 2:01 Sleeping
  • 2:39 Unique Butterflies &…
  • 4:00 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Elizabeth Hance

Elizabeth has taught elementary and middle school special education, and has a master's degree in reading education.

Expert Contributor
Amanda Robb

Amanda holds a Masters in Science from Tufts Medical School in Cellular and Molecular Physiology. She has taught high school Biology and Physics for 8 years.

There are thousands of species of butterflies, and they can live in an amazing array of locations and habitats. In this lesson, you'll learn about the different places that butterflies live and the types of butterflies that live there.


Butterflies are amazing insects that can be found all over the world! In fact, they live on every continent except Antarctica. Because they are cold-blooded creatures and typically need warm weather to survive, you are more likely to find them living in warm and tropical climates. You will certainly see many butterflies in areas that stay warm for all or most of the year, like California or Mexico.

Of course, butterflies need access to food, which is usually nectar from flowers for them, so they must live in places where they have access to blossoming flowers. You can see why a cold, dry place like Antarctica would not be a welcome home for butterflies. Butterflies are also found in mountain ranges, salt marshes, along coastlines, and even near sand dunes.


Many butterflies live all their lives in a small area, but some migrate. Migration is when an animal moves from one place to another, often because of the weather. Just like many birds migrate to warmer climates during the winter months, some butterfly species migrate so that they have the warm temperatures and food that they need.

The most famous migrating butterfly is probably the Monarch. The Monarch butterflies from the Eastern and Northeastern United States are part of a migration that covers more than 2,000 miles and takes several generations of butterflies. They roost, or rest, for the winter in Mexico, clustering together to stay warm.

Once it is warm enough, the first generation of monarchs begins traveling north. It will take three to four generations for the monarchs to reach the northern United States and Canada. Finally, a super generation of monarchs will make the return trip all the way back to Mexico.


At nighttime you probably like to curl up under a warm blanket and rest your head on a pillow. Butterflies, however, do not sleep in beds or on cots! Most butterflies are active during the day when they can get nectar from flowers and enjoy the warmth that the sun provides. In the evenings, they roost. Many butterflies rest under leaves where they are protected from predators and the elements. Others roost in between rocks. Some disguise themselves on top of flowers. The brimstone butterfly has wings that are perfectly camouflaged to match the underside of leaves.

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Additional Activities

Butterfly Habitat

In this activity, you'll be building a diorama of one habitat for a specific species of butterfly. Students will choose one butterfly from the lesson or that they have looked up online and research its habitat. Students will use this information to construct a diorama of the habitat. To complete this activity you should have a small box such as a shoebox, markers, paint, pipe cleaners, tissue paper, and other craft supplies. The more supplies you offer students the more creative they can be with their project.

For example, students might choose to create a habitat for a glasswing butterfly. Their habitat would represent the tropical rainforest of South America and would have broadleaf plants, flowers, and plenty of water. Students could include hot glue to look like water on leaves made of paper or tissue paper. Flowers can be constructed from clay or more tissue paper.

Student Instructions

In this activity, you're going to be creating a habitat for a butterfly of your choosing. You should select a butterfly from the reading, or one that you know or have read about. Then, research its habitat and create a model called a diorama. A diorama is a small box that contains a replica of a habitat or place. To make sure your diorama has everything you need, check out the criteria for success below.

Criteria For Success

  • Diorama is a replica of a habitat for a specific butterfly
  • Diorama includes plants that are specific to the habitat
  • Diorama includes at least one of the butterflies
  • Diorama is colorful, attractive and includes at least three different materials.

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