Let’s explore butterfly patterns together! By using our material list, images, and template alongside the guiding questions this project can be a fun and colorful way to think about the wings of butterflies.
- Butterfly template (below; this template can be printed out or can be a guide for drawing your own)
- Butterfly images (below)
- Additional craft items for pattern making:
- Scrap paper (any colorful paper – construction paper tissue paper)
- Glue and scissors
- Colored pencils, markers, or crayons
Help focus your scientist’s attention and create a meaningful exploration by considering these guiding questions. For more information check out our “More on Butterflies” section.
- When have you seen a butterfly before? What did it look like?
- What do you notice about the close-up picture of butterfly wings?
- Why do you think the wings look like that? (they are made up of tiny pieces – scales)
- When you create your own realistic butterfly wings what will you use to create the pattern? Why do you want to use that supply or material?
- Why might different butterflies have different colors and patterns on their wings?
Butterfly Body Part Images
Close-up Butterfly Wing Images
More on Butterflies
The Illinois Department of Natural Resources lists 150 species of butterflies in Illinois.
Butterflies have three main body parts (head, thorax, abdomen), three pairs of legs, and a pair of antennae. Most have two pairs of symmetrical wings, which are covered with tiny scales. The scales and their arrangement provide the diversity of color patterns seen in different species.
Want a deeper dive on color? Continue reading to learn even more and then share with your scientist, as you think is age and interest appropriate. Animals and plants use color for many purposes: including to attract something or to repel something. Colors in biological organisms are produced in three primary ways: as a biological pigment, from structural color, or through bioluminescence. All have to do with the interaction of light.
Structural color is color produced by microscopic physical features that function like tiny prisms, reflecting or refracting light. These often appear iridescent because light catches them at certain angles, so the visible color changes. Lots of insects use structural color.
- Blue, purple, green and white are structural in butterflies. In fact, the color blue is often a structural color for animals, and there are very few natural blue pigment colors on living things.
Biological pigment is color produced by the absorption of light, and the pigments reside in specialized cells of the organism. The color of our eyes, hair and skin is biological pigment.
- The orange, yellow, brown, and black are pigment colors in butterflies.
Bioluminescence is color produced through a chemical reaction. Some marine animals use bioluminescence. The color and light a firefly uses is also bioluminescence!
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