Encyclopedia Article


Butterflies are flying insects with vertically folding brightly colored wings. They are members of the insect order Lepidoptera, which also includes moths and are a part of the superfamily Papilionoidea. Their body structure includes three body parts: four wings, six jointed legs, and antennae. They develop in three stages of their lifecycle: egg, caterpillar (larva), chrysalis (pupa), and finally, adult. Some butterflies can live for weeks and some years. They are very like moths, with a light dust covering their body; however, unlike moths, they hold their wings vertically on their backs and are active during the day. Their main diet consists of plant matter. Of the 14,000 species of butterflies in the world, 417 species live in the southwest. This is 40% of all species of butterflies that live in the U.S.

Butterflies for the Zuni can symbolize the coming of an everlasting summer and all the goodness that comes with it. The Zuni define the concept of beauty with the word “tso’ya” and the butterfly with its bright wings and varying flight path is an exemplification of this beauty.

Photo Credit: 

"Swallowtail Butterfly (P. m. multicaudata)" by Jerry Oldenettel is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA.