Life History Table Definitions

Life History

The who, what, when, where, and how of an organism. Life history information relies on detailed observations of the activities and happenings of organisms under “natural” conditions and can be extremely laborious to gather, but is absolutely essential in environmental studies and especially conservation biology.


The maintenance of year-round, breeding populations by a species at any given locality.

Number of Broods

The description of how many broods (generations) per year a particular butterfly species produces at any one location. A butterfly with one generation per year is “univoltine”. Butterflies with two generations per year are called “bivoltine” and those with more than two are generally referred to as “multivoltine”.

Overwintering Stage

The stage (egg, larva, pupa, or adult) in which butterflies hibernate through the winter months. Different species hibernate in different stages, and this affects the timing of activity by adults during the warmer months.


A general term for organisms that are typically associated with habitats that are disturbed by human activities or are dominated by non-native, invasive plants.

Taxonomic Host Range

The distribution (taxon range) of a host plant for a particular butterfly species, determining the extent where a butterfly species can breed.

Known Host Plants

The species or set of species of plants that caterpillars must eat to develop properly. Host plant specificity can vary greatly across butterfly species, ranging from only 1 plant species to dozens of suitable plant species. Host plant specificity can promote speciation between two or more groups of closely related through reproductive isolation. Prime examples of this are Euphilotes blue butterflies and some Apodemia metalmarks that almost exclusively use different species or varieties buckwheats (Eriogonum) as larval hosts. A similar situation has been demonstrated in Mitoura hairstreaks that feed on trees in the family Cupressaceae (junipers, incense-cedar, cypresses).