Butterfly kingdom

With a truly vast number of insects, it’s hardly surprising the DR Congo has well over 1,000 species of butterflies and moths.

What is a butterfly?

Decorative butterflies on a windowpaneWith six legs, a three-part body and a pair of antennae, butterflies and moths are classed as insects. Within the insect family, they belong to the order called Lepidoptera (‘lepidos’ is Greek for ‘scales’ and ‘ptera’ means ‘wing’). These scaled wings are different to the wings of other insects.

Though they’re found all over the world, the majority of butterfly and moth species live in tropical areas, and especially tropical rainforests such as those of the DR Congo.

Many of these butterflies are large and extremely colourful. Common examples include those in the emperor moth (Saturnidae) and swallowtail butterfly (Papilonidae) families.

Adult butterflies feed by sipping liquid food with their long tongue (called a proboscis). Mostly, this food is nectar from flowers, but some butterflies live on other types of liquid, such as from rotting fruit.

There are certainly plenty of flowers and fruits in the forests of the DR Congo for the country’s Lepidoptera to snack on.