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Habitat loss to agriculture, deforestation, urbanization, draining of wetlands, and other changes in land-use is the foremost threat to butterfly populations. Although pollution, pesticides, and specimen collection pose serious threats to some species, none of these is as damaging as habitat loss. The short life span of butterflies usually makes it impossible for displaced populations to find another appropriate habitat. Although no species of butterfly is known to have been made extinct through human actions, some subspecies have been rendered extinct, and some rare species are endangered. Protection of habitat is the most effective way to prevent major reductions in populations and endangerment of butterflies, and of other wild animals and plants.



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Feltwell, John. The Natural History of Butterflies. New York: Facts on File, 1986.

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Sbordoni, V., and S. Forestiero. Butterflies of the World. Firefly Books, 1998.

Scott, James A. The Butterflies of North America. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2001.

Smart, Paul. The Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Butterfly World. New York: Random House, 1996.


Barbour, Spider. "Overnight Sensation." Natural History (May 1989): 24-28.

Boppre, Michael. "Sex, Drugs, and Butterflies." Natural History (January 1994): 28-33.

Marie L. Thompson


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—A soft casing, shell, or cocoon protecting the dormant pupa of insects during metamorphosis.


—A complete change of form, structure, or function in the process of development, shown by insects.


—Chemical substances, secreted by most animals, that stimulate a response from others of that species (e.g., sex hormones for mating) or other species (e.g., a predator sensing chemicals produced by its prey's fear).


—An insect in the nonfeeding stage during which the larva develops into the adult.

Additional topics

Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Boolean algebra to Calcium PropionateButterflies - Evolution, Development And Life Cycle, The Egg, The Caterpillar, The Chrysalis, The Adult (or Imago)