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The butterfly is one of the most beautiful creatures of the world. According to entomologists there are a total of about 140,000 species of 77 families of butterflies in the world. Of this number, about 12,000 species of 40 families have been found in Thailand.
In the Thai language, both butterflies and moths are called phi suea, which means "clothed spirit". The name sounds strange. Maybe Thais in ancient times, amazed by the beauty of these winged insects and their fluttering movement, thought that they were neither birds nor insects, but spirits in clothes. The Thais distinguish the butterfly from the moth by referring to the former a phi suea klang wan and the latter as phi suea klang khuen, meaning daytime phi suea and nighttime phi suea respectively, since the former is dirunal while the latter is nocturnal.
The butterfly is different from the other types of insects in two aspects . First, it has tiny scales on its wings that constitute the sources of its beautiful colours. Second, it has a sucking tube functioning like a mouth.
The butterfly has a life cycle of four stages - those of the egg, larva, chrysalis and adult butterfly. A female butterfly. after mating , lays its egg (or for some species, mass of eggs) on a leaf on which the caterpillar may feed . The egg may be round, cylindrical or in the shape of a vase. When first laid, it is in white, light yellow or light green . It becomes darker with the lapse of time and changes its shape as the larva inside grows.
After about 7 days, the caterpillar emerges and eats the shell of the egg as its first meal, maybe because the shell contains nutrients it needs or because it wants to destroy evidence of its existence to avoid its discovery by an enemy . Then it grows rapidly. During the process of growth which takes about 8-10 days, it casts off its skin 4 or 5 times until finally it stops eating and changes into a chrysalis or pupa.
The pupa of a butterfly is generally in a hard case. For a small number of species, it may be in a cocoon. It remains idle in this stage for 7 to 15 days, during which changes are taking place inside so that the caterpillar is gradually becoming a butterfly.
When the butterfly comes out of the case, it will spread its wings and ,as soon as the wings are dry and strong , it will fly to find a mate.Then the female will remain in the forest or near its source of food waiting to lay eggs while the male flies away. Butterflies can mate any time in a year and have a life span of about 15 days to 2 months.
There are two nice places in Thailand , both in Phuket. To view these attractive creatures : Phuket Butterfly & Aquarium and Talang Butterfly Farm. The former features over 4,000 live butterflies of 150 species with an anquarium section where 300 species of colourful sea lives are displayed. The latter is a breeding farm for exporting to around the world which contains breeding rooms showing the life cycle of butterflies both domestic and foreign and which also exhibits other insects and reptiles.