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Our fondness of butterflies, the most glamorous creatures of the animal world, is age-long. Butterflies, with their fragile wings and radiant colors, have inspired poets and artists of many cultures.

What is behind our fascination? In Northern Europe, butterflies appear in spring proclaiming the advent of warmth and sun after a harsh winter, joyfully welcomed as a symbol of new life. We also admire the ultimate freedom they enjoy roaming in a Garden of Eden between brilliant blossoms and lush foliage. We are astonished at the complete transformation from an unsightly caterpillar to a stunning beauty. And we are taken by the fact that they feed on nectar, the mythical drink of the gods.

Our rainforests boast of a thousand species of butterflies. The acclaimed naturalist Arthur Russell Wallace and the founder of Singapore, Sir Stamford Raffles, are the most notable explorers of the Malaysian butterfly world. It was Wallace who discovered one of the most beautiful examples when he was exploring the jungles of Borneo back in 1855. He named it The Rajah Brooke Birdwing in honor of the ruler of Sarawak at that time, the first British Raja James Brooke. The Rajah Brooke Birdwing has a truly notable wingspan of up to 18 cm and is today one of the national symbols of Malaysia.

Visitors to Malaysia will have many opportunities to observe these beautiful insects. They can be found in any one of the butterfly farms in the country like the Kuala Lumpur and Penang butterfly farms. Or a bit more strenuous but even more rewarding - on a trek through Malaysia's rainforests. Butterflies are most active during the early morning and late afternoon. They are attracted to all forms of moisture, like puddles on the roadside, riverbanks and wet leaves. Many butterflies are also drawn to animal matters, especially urine, which is why animal's waterholes are a good spot for butterfly watching.

Scientifically, butterflies belong to the family of Lepidoptera, which is from the Greek words lepis (scale) and pteron (wing). Lepidopterae are divided into butterflies and moths. A general rule to distinguish the former from the latter is that butterflies usually fly during the day whereas moths are nocturnal. Another easy identification guide is the way they rest: Generally, moths rest with their wings opened in a horizontal position, while butterflies fold both wings together in a closed upright position. Biologists have identified many families and subfamilies of butterflies. Some of the most striking and spectacular species belong to the 'Papilionidae' or Swallowtails. They are characterized through their long pointed forewings and swallow-like tails from their hind wings.

One of the amazing characteristics of butterflies is their life cycle. In their final form as an adult butterfly, they only live for two to three weeks, but have had to go through three different, lengthy stages to appear in their full beauty. It starts with the female laying tiny roundish eggs on a food plant; every species seems to have their favorite plants. Within several days these eggs hatch into caterpillars, equipped with powerful jaws to feed on green leaves - not to the delight of many gardeners. The caterpillar grows at a rapid rate and will cast its skin several times before it reaches the stage when it turns itself into a pupa.

The metamorphosis of this greedy wormlike creature from an apparently dormant - cocooned stage into a magnificent butterfly after weeks or months is one of nature's greatest moments.

   
Answer the following questions using complete sentences
  1.

a) From paragraph 2, name the food of the butterflies.

b) From paragraph 3, who are the most notable explorers of the Malaysian butterfly world ?

  2.

From paragraph 4,

a) name the thing that attracts butterflies the most ?

b) when are butterflies the most active ?

  3.

From paragraph 5, state the differences between butterflies and moths.

  4.

a) From paragraph 5, how would you identify the 'Papilionidae' ?

b) From paragraph 6, how long is the life cycle of a butterfly ?

  5.

Explain in your own words why the life cycle of a butterfly is described as one of 'Nature's great moments'.

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Answers
 

1.

a) Their food is nectar.

b) Arthur Russell Wallace and Sir Stamford Raffles

 

2.

a) They are attracted to all forms of moisture like puddles on the road side, river banks and wet leaves.

b) During the early morning and late afternoon.

 

3.

Butterflies usually fly during the day whereas months are nocturnal. Moths rest with their wings opened in a horizontal position, while butterflies fold both wings together in a closed upright position.

 

4.

a) By their long pointed forewings and swallow-like tails from their hind wings.

b) Two to three weeks

 

5.

This is because of the emergence of the beautiful butterfly in radiant colors from a worm-like creature.

 
 
 
 
 

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Comprehension 1

 

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