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The name Lepidoptera comes from the Ancient Greek words “leps,” which means scale, and “pterón,” which means wing. Adult butterflies have four scale-covered wings. The color of a butterfly’s wings comes from these scales: They have melanins that give them their black and brown colors, as well as uric acid derivatives and flavones that give them their yellow colors. However, most of their blue, green, red, and iridescent colors are caused by structural coloration caused by the scales and hairs’ microstructures.

The body is divided into three sections, as it is in all insects: the abdomen, thorax, and head. Each of the three segments of the thorax has a pair of legs. In contrast to moths, whose antennae can be threadlike or feathery, most families of butterflies have clubbed antennae. When not in use, the long proboscis can be coiled to consume flower nectar.

In contrast to the majority of moths, which fly at night, are frequently cryptically colored and well camouflaged, and either hold their wings flat (touching the surface on which the moth is standing) or fold them tightly over their bodies, nearly all butterflies are diurnal, have relatively bright colors, and hold their wings vertically above their bodies when at rest.