Lepidoptera

Lepidoptera. The word doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, but you can use it the next time you refer to any of the world’s many thousands of species of butterflies and moths. They are all lepidopterans.

The word comes from the ancient Greek language. The first part, lepido, means “scale”. The second part, ptera, translates as “wing”. So, lepidopterans – butterflies and moths – are members of the insect class whose wings are composed of scales. This trait isn’t easily seen at a distance. You’ll need a closer look, perhaps with a magnifying glass, to really appreciate the natural design and beauty of any insect wing.

When you do get up close and personal with any of your neighborhood lepidopterans, take the opportunity to check out the following characteristics:

The Anatomy of a Spicebush Swallowtail - click to make bigger.

  • Two large compound eyes
  • Paired antennae
  • A long thin mouthpart called a proboscis, which is sometimes coiled
  • Three pairs of jointed legs
  • Three main body segments – head, thorax and abdomen

The closer we observe living creatures, the better we understand and appreciate them.

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About Elmwood Park Zoo

We're a small zoo in Norristown, Pennsylvania. We exhibit animals from North and South America, and are currently involved in conservation efforts for animals such as the fisher and the Chacoan peccary.
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