Butterfly, flying insect of the order Lepidoptera (which also includes moths), characterized by wide, brightly colored wings. The butterfly undergoes metamorphosis (change in form) several times during its life. The egg grows into a larva called a caterpillar, which feeds on vegetation. During the next stage, the pupa, it does not feed, but is protected by a shell or cocoon while develping into the adult butterfly. Most species of butterflies are members of one of the main family groups: (1) skippers, (2) blues, coppers, and hairstreaks, (3) brush-foots, (4) sulphurs and whites, (5) metalmarks, (6) satyrs and wood nymphs, (7) swallowtail, (8) milkweed butterflies, and (9) snout butterflies. Although butterflies are found worldwide in a variety of climates, the greatest number of species are native to the tropical rainforests. Migratory butterflies such as the monarch may travel thousands of miles to reach warm winter habitats.