How do butterflies fly?

How do butterflies fly? It’s not a simple as you might have thought!

Firstly, it’s worth noting that butterflies have really big wings for the size of their bodies. In fact, new research shows butterflies’ wings are much larger than they need to fly and they can fly with half their wings missing!

Because the wings are so big, they make it easier for the insect to manoeuvre. A butterfly’s huge wings are like having a massive rudder on the back of a ship – the bigger the rudder, the faster the ship can turn.

Butterflies also use their wings to make an erratic fluttering pattern, which is unique to butterflies and very hard for predators, especially birds, to predict which way they will fly.

Rather than flapping their wings up and down like birds, butterflies contract their bodies making a slanted figure eight pattern with their wings. As the butterfly’s body contracts, the motion pushes air under their wings, effectively propelling it through the air.

Pretty clever, right?!