Please Explain: Butterflies

Friday, September 07, 2012

Monarch butterflies have started to make their long journey south to Mexico. On this week’s Please Explain, we’ll find out about the many different species of butterflies—from their coloring to their attraction to flowers to their cocoons. We’re joined by Bob Robbins, Curator of Lepidoptera, Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History, and Dr. Cole Gilbert, Associate Professor of Entomology at Cornell University.


Cole Gilbert and Bob Robbins

Comments [14]

Lisa from Berkeley Heights, NJ

A few weeks ago I saw what I thought had to be a hummingbird hovering among my wildflowers. It seemed mighty small, even for a hummingbird, but it sure looked like one given it's 'beak' and iridescent rapidly moving wings. At the time I was excited that my garden had actually attracted a hummingbird, and that they could be so small... So, with amazement I heard the caller's question/description, and then the guest giving the name 'hummingbird hawk moth'. I googled the image, and yes, an enormous, beautiful moth. Thank you! I would have never known.

Sep. 07 2012 06:09 PM
Margaret from Gillette, NJ

For the caller who asked about a butterfly that looks like a hummingbird, it is definitely a hummingbird moth--not uncommon if you have the right kind of flowers in your garden. Each year, when my phlox bloom, the hummingbird moths return. They are fascinating and beautiful.

Sep. 07 2012 02:01 PM
Adele Grodstein from haworth nj

Do butterflies play a role in plant propagation like bees do?

Sep. 07 2012 01:53 PM
Amy from Manhattan

I didn't know butterflies left anything to fossilize! How can you tell from fossils that they had colors & were diurnal?

Sep. 07 2012 01:51 PM
john from Northport, NY

I was fortunate enough to see a live Luna Moth.They are very beatuful. Has anyone done a genetic analysis to see if it is more moth or butterfly?

Sep. 07 2012 01:51 PM

I once heard that butterflies were originally called "flutterby's". ??

Sep. 07 2012 01:49 PM
Len from Westchester County

Joseph Scheer, a visual artist at Alfred University, has made a career of hi-res scanning moths and butterflies and enlarging them to nearly 4 foot wingspans. Astonishing images.

Sep. 07 2012 01:48 PM
Andy from Belmar NJ

How does metamorphosis work in the context of evolution?
Surely something can't die a little bit, then a bit more and then become a different creature?
I have heard creationists use this as an illustration of a flaw in Darwinian logic

Sep. 07 2012 01:46 PM
Ted Fair from Scranton, PA

Is there a downside to the mail-order butterfly industry?

Sep. 07 2012 01:46 PM
Morton D. Rich from Blairstown, NJ

Please mention the famous lepidopterist Vladimir Nabokov, who was professor of literature at Cornell & professor of entomology at Harvard during the 1950's. I studied European literature with him in the fall of 1951.

Sep. 07 2012 01:42 PM
Mark Kalan from Valley Cottage NY

I posted a photo on your Facebook page and would love confirmation of its ID and an explanation/guess as why it was on my house.

Sep. 07 2012 01:39 PM
Laura from UWS

What should we be doing to protect the lives of butterflies?

P.S. Thanks so much for your programming. I'm enjoying this so much!

Sep. 07 2012 01:35 PM
John A

Would wing scales have a purpose if there were no spider webs?

Sep. 07 2012 01:30 PM
Jock Stender from Charleston, SC

I understand -- I believe from a Scientific American article -- that butterflies can see three miles. Is this so?

Sep. 07 2012 12:12 PM

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