This post may contain affiliate links from Zazzle or Amazon.

Ilona has gardened actively for most of her life, and been a writer and webmaster online since 1998. Homeschooled all 10 of her children.

Lepidoptera in Core Studies

In Language, History, Science, and Social Studies

That is how a unit study works, taking a topic of interest and looking at it through the lens of many different academic disciplines. So one that centers on the second largest order in the insect class is bound to be interesting and fun… with new avenues of discovery to take while making learning enjoyable. It is important to remember that not every part of a study has to be rigorously followed, allow it to pique your child’s interest and finish as many of the projects in as wide a range of the subjects as possible.

Ask some questions, like “Did people so value a certain moth that it changed history?” “Why is the Morpho butterfly such a beautiful blue?” ‘What does the butterfly represent in a painting…anything?”

Who said “I float like a butterfly, sting like a bee”? Why did he say that? What other famous quotations and references to butterflies can you think of?

Put your thinking cap on and come up with a new and interesting educational journey into this unit study for a great way to inject some excitement and interest into your homeschool activities.

Take Photos

Combine botanical study with photography skills by visiting a live exhibit of butterflies, take your camera and capture the experience. As a result, a whole new area of discovery and research opens up within your unit study.

Study Lepidoptera in Science

caterpillar illustration
There are so many opportunities for taking detours into almost any academic subject of study when you pick the butterfly as your focus. All age groups love these beautiful living gems of nature, discovering literature, science, and history through the pursuit of butterflies will be one of the most entertaining and possibly lasting endeavors your family may enjoy. It sure will be many projects to keep you going, maybe even use it as a theme for the year.

A Unit Study

Central topic, like ‘butterflies’ chosen here, is used as a hub for studying math, language, history, geography, writing skills, spelling, art, and even music. Use a Nature notebook, which your student creates, to gather all the projects together, or lapbooks for younger children to provide a lasting keepsake of their discoveries about butterflies.

Butterflies undergo ‘metamorphosis’ which makes them an analogy for the concept of change.

Some facts:

A butterfly is an insect, in the group called Lepidoptera.

fun facts…

Butterflies and insects have their skeletons on the outside of their bodies, called the exoskeleton. This protects the insect and keeps water inside their bodies so they don’t dry out.

Science Can Take Flight

Science is often the most challenging subject for homeschool families. Using the unit study method can make all the pieces of the puzzle fall together in a natural way that invites explorations and discovery.

Butterflies Morph – which makes them a great unit study topic

discovery with magnifying glass

Because butterflies are actual organisms, finding related studies in the realm of science are easy. Start with the Natural sciences… and go from there….

Butterfly Biology

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Arthropoda
  • Class: Insecta
  • Order: Lepidoptera

As Arthropods, butterflies are invertebrate (without a backbone) and have jointed legs, an exoskeleton, and a segmented body. Lepidos means “scales”, ptera means “wing” in Greek, an identifying characteristic of the insects in the Lepidoptera order: their scaled wings. The order Lepidoptera has around 120,000 different species of butterflies and moths. The only larger order is that of the beetles, Coleoptera, with more than 350,000 recorded species.

Butterflies Branch Out in Horticulture,Earth Science,Physics

What about the way the human eye perceives color? Did you know that the pretty colors of the butterfly’s wings are not so much pigments as a structural effect in the way light reflects from the surface? Much like Peacock feathers. Explore ecosystems and why butterflies thrive in certain environments, make an area of the yard into a butterfly haven, begin a journal to record species of butterflies found in your yard or in parks you visit.

Stages of Butterfly Illustration

butterfly stages of life

butterfly stages of life

Take a Field Trip to a Live Exhibit

Live Butterflies

Nature Gift Store Live Butterfly Kit: Shipped with 5 Painted Lady Caterpillars Now- Pop Up Cage

This is a complete live butterfly kit. 5 Painted Lady Caterpillars are shipped along with an observation, pop-up cage.

Nature Journaling

keep a record of nature studies

How to make a nature journal, illustrated.

Autumn Butterfly with Crocus

butterfly art

Quotations For Lapbooks

Poetry in Motion

But these are flowers that fly and all but sing:

And now from having ridden out desire

They lie closed over in the wind and cling

Where wheels have freshly sliced the April mire.

~Robert Frost, “Blue-Butterfly Day”

Where have those flowers and butterflies all gone

That science may have staked the future on?

He seems to say the reason why so much

Should come to nothing must be fairly faced.

~Robert Frost, “Pod of the Milkweed”

I’ve watched you now a full half-hour;

Self-poised upon that yellow flower

And, little Butterfly! Indeed

I know not if you sleep or feed.

How motionless! – not frozen seas

More motionless! and then

What joy awaits you, when the breeze

Hath found you out among the trees,

And calls you forth again!

~William Wordsworth, “To a Butterfly”

Float Like A Butterfly – Use of Butterfly in Metaphors, Poems and Cultures

Many Japanese families use the butterfly in the family crest design.

Butterflies can symbolize: Resurrection, Transition, Celebration, Lightness, Time, Soul

How many types of references to the butterfly can you find in literature or colloquialisms?

The Caterpillar

Brown and furry

Caterpillar in a hurry;

Take your walk

To the shady leaf or stalk.

May no toad spy you,

May the little birds pass by you;

Spin and die,

To live again a butterfly.

— by Christina Georgina Rosetti

The Beauty of Butterflies – Butterflies in Art

dark poster

Whether you study artists like those of the Dutch Masters or make your own project, the possibilities are endless and the student’s appreciation for many types of art is cultivated.

View this painting by Adriaen Coorte, continue to study more Dutch painters who loved to include the colors and liveliness of the butterfly in their masterpieces. Begin a Notebook or Lapbook by encouraging your artists to make their version of the fine art works.

Use Rubber Stamps for artistic effect.

Gardens Plus Butterflies

Put together both a garden and a butterfly unit study- the two segue well! They can be side by side or in sequence. It saves much time and effort to compile lesson plans for both.

Garden Centered Study

  • Plan A Garden Unit Study
    A unit study with the topic of gardening at the hub is one of the easiest to create and follow. It gets everyone outdoors and incorporates every single academic subject! What could be more fun?


Monarch and MilkweedMonarch and Milkweed

Spare, artistic, and true to science… the interplay of host plant and butterfly is beautifully presented.

Use this book along with your study and field trips.

Make an Art Project

Learn More About Butterflies and Moths

Much more than the obvious projects in language, or natural science, have you considered how social sciences are impacted by our concern for the environment and the creatures, like butterflies and birds, which need to be protected? Current events are full of news items about these topics.

And what about history? Have your students delve into some of the most interesting stories that revolve around the Silk Road and explorers driven by the hunger for fine silk products.

azure butterfly

Study Laws of Protection

Butterflies in Social Science

Why should our society protect butterflies? Aren’t they just insects? Find out why, and pursue how governments work. How are the laws enacted and enforced?

Kill a Butterfly, Go to Jail? -what are some of the debates about butterfly laws? Write persuasive essays, reports, or just get a good discussion going.

Did Butterflies Change History?

Study the China Silk Trade

Silkworm moth, caterpillar, and chrysalis all were tied up in the most fascinating story of the silk trade. History of China, its influence, of explorers and intrigue… all are a part of the story of this insect.
Chinese art

“Two Butterflies and Lotuses” by Chang, Hsi-Tsun

“This important insect is a native of the north of China; and a great portion of the supplies of silk for Europe and America are still derived from that country.” – Goodrich, 1859…

What is silk and why was the silkworm so important… why did people risk their lives to obtain silk from China, and what was the impact of the lowly silkworm on history? The beauty and strength of silk cloth would make for many fun projects as this part of the unit study is explored.

Topics to research:

  • History of Silk,wikipedia
  • History of Silk,
  • Victorian Collectors

Another possible history avenue is the Victorian age with its avid collectors and discoverers of butterflies and moths.


Study just one species of butterfly or moth


List of Butterfly Online Resources