Lepidopteran Legacy

Historic Charleston is always awash with vibrant colors, typically from the assortment of lush plants and trees that have made the city’s scenic gardens such a pleasure for those who tour and visit each year. But also this time of year, we begin to have several months of butterfly migrations, and colorful, fluttering wings add a special grace all their own. Butterflies are known scientifically as lepidoptera, a word derived from the Greek lepid, meaning “scales” and ptera, meaning “wings”. Butterflies like the Gulf Fritillary pictured have wings filled with slender scales that absorb sunlight. Not only does the sunlight provide the butterfly with energy, but the scales refract the light into brilliant colors that attract other butterflies for mating, and warn predators that the wings may be poisonous.

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