During the past few weeks, record high temperatures have been documented throughout Georgia. On numerous days thermometer readings as high as 100˚F and above have been recorded. Needless to say, these high temperatures are having a profound effect on each of us. However, have you wondered if this torrid weather is having an impact on the behavior of our backyard butterflies? The truth of the matter is butterflies fare far better than we do when in temperatures reach or exceed the century mark.
Butterflies are cold-blooded animals. This means their body temperature varies according to the temperature of the air around them. Most butterflies are capable of flight when temperatures range from 60-108˚F. However, they fly best when in temperatures between 80-100˚F. At the other end of the spectrum when their body temperature dips into the mid-60s and below, few are capable of flight.
Keep in mind, butterflies can somewhat regulate their body temperatures through behavior. Consequently, butterflies will bask on vegetation and rocks on cool mornings. When engaged in this activity they will flatten out their wings. This enables them to absorb the sun’s rays and warm their bodies to a point where their flight muscles can efficiently move their wings. Conversely, butterflies can actually suffer from heat shock when temperatures range from 105-110˚F. Consequently, when it gets exceedingly hot they often escape to shady areas and hold their wings upright.
This explains why this is not a good time to be butterfly watching during the hottest part of a very hot day. We do not have any business being outside when it is that hot anyway.