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Any of more than 14,000 lepidopteran species found worldwide. Unlike moths, butterflies are active during the day and are usually brightly coloured or strikingly patterned. Distinctive features are club-tipped antennae and a habit of holding the wings vertically over the back when at rest. With few exceptions the larvae and adults eat plants. Butterflies are classified into five or six families. The metalmarks of the family Lycaenidae are found chiefly in the New World tropics; some members of the family Nymphalidae are called snout butterflies. Other species (with their families) include the white and sulphur butterflies (Pieridae), the swallowtail butterfly (Papilionidae), the blue, copper, and hairstreak butterflies (Lycaenidae), and the admiral, monarch, and painted lady (Nymphalidae).
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on butterfly, visit Britannica.com.