There are an amazing 20,000 species of butterflies, possibly more. What’s the difference between butterflies and moths? The easiest way to tell is their antennae. Butterfly antennae look like a golf club (a single strand with a bulb on the tip) while moth antennae are either filaments that are triangular in shape or complicated structures with many cross filaments.
In general butterflies are more colorful and active in the day while moths are more dull and active at night. Most butterflies live for about 1 month.
The normal monarch butterfly (pictured) lives for 4 to 5 weeks but there is a unique “Methuselah” generation in the fall that lives for 7 to 8 months for the purpose of migrating from Canada and the US to central Mexico in order to hibernate. Covering up to 50 miles a day, these tiny butterflies fly an amazing distance of 1200 to 2800 miles. After hibernation they mate and their short-lived children continue to migrate north, one month at a time, until next fall.
The Mexican Fund for the Conservation of Nature and the World Wildlife Fund are working to preserve the forests in Mexico so the butterflies can hibernate, since the people who live nearby must also rely on the forest for survival. Climate change threatens to disrupt the pattern of migration of these butterflies as the unpredictable temperature changes are impacting their survival on their migration both south and north.