Nature (Season 36) – Sex, Lies and Butterflies

Air date: 04/04/2018

Nature: Sex, Lies and Butterflies

Premieres Wednesday, April 4, at 8 pm EST on PBS (check local listings)


Butterflies have been making our planet more interesting and beautiful for more than 50 million years, and today a dazzling array of nearly 20,000 different species inhabit the globe. Nature: Sex, Lies and Butterflies follows the lives of these incredible and important insects from egg to caterpillar to chrysalis to the emergence of the mature winged creature. This vibrant new Nature special explores the astonishing survival techniques of butterflies, including their 360° vision, deceptive camouflage, chemical weaponry, and fantastic flight across continents. Through sophisticated macro-filming, viewers get a rare glimpse beyond the butterflies’ bright colors and fragile beauty as they follow them on one of the greatest migrations on Earth. Narrated by Paul Giamatti. 

Featured Species:

  • Painted Ladies
  • Eastern tiger swallowtails
  • Monarchs
  • Pipevine swallowtails
  • Adelotypa annulifera

Short TV Listing

Explore the amazing abilities of butterflies – from their deceptive camouflage and chemical weaponry to fantastic flight, and more.

Long TV Listing

Explore the astounding abilities of butterflies – deceptive camouflage, chemical weaponry, and fantastic flight. Look beyond their bright colors and fragile beauty as you follow them on one of the greatest migrations on Earth.

Running Time: 60 minutes 

Noteworthy Facts:

  • All butterflies share a single, genetic ancestor – a small brown moth that lived more than 50 million years ago.
  • Butterflies are actually moths – about 20,000 species of them – and inhabit every continent on the planet except Antarctica.
  • Though the flight pattern of butterflies seems totally random, their oversized wings act like an enormous rudder, enabling them to soar with complete control.
  • The eyes of a Painted Lady butterfly, whose habitat spans Europe, Asia, the Americas, and Africa, contain more than 30,000 lenses.
  • A butterfly uses its tube-like tongue – or proboscis – to feed. It uncoils its proboscis and sucks up liquid nourishment using a micro-pump in its head.

Buzzworthy Moments:

  • Jesse Barber of Boise State University and Akito Kawahara of the Florida Museum of Natural History recently discovered that some moths emit sounds pitched at the same frequencies as bats’ sonar, “jamming” the bats’ method of hunting them.
  • Recorded for only the third time ever, a butterfly pollinates a flower using its wings, instead of its proboscis.
  • Several species of butterfly utilize tricky survival techniques to escape predation, including eating noxious plants, mimicking the spots of other poisonous butterflies, or utilizing camouflage.
  • Scientists reveal the unique relationship that Adelotypa annulifera caterpillars have with multitudes of ferocious ants, who nurture and guard them as they feed on nectar from young bamboo plants.
  • From Africa to Scandinavia and back, Painted Ladies were discovered to have traveled about 9,000 miles roundtrip, completing the longest migration of any insect ever discovered.

Series Overview:

Nature brings the wonders of natural history to millions of American viewers. Nature has won more than 700 honors from the television industry, the international wildlife film communities and environmental organizations, including 18 Emmys and three Peabody Awards. 

Production Credits:

Nature is a production of THIRTEEN PRODUCTIONS LLC for WNET and PBS. For Nature, Fred Kaufman is Executive Producer. Bill Murphy is Series Producer. Sex, Lies and Butterflies is a production of Terra Mater Factual Studios and Coneflower Productions in co-production with THIRTEEN PRODUCTIONS LLC for WNET. The documentary is produced and directed by Ann Johnson Prum. Narrated by Paul Giamatti. Edited by Jim Isler. Written by Janet Hess. Cinematography by Mark Carroll, Russell Kaye and Ann Johnson Prum. Original Music by David Mitcham. Ivo Filatsch and Sabine Holzer are Executive Producers for Terra Mater Factual Studios.


Support for this Nature program was made possible in part by the Arnhold Family in memory of Clarisse Arnhold, the Halmi Family in memory of Robert Halmi, Sr., Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Kate W. Cassidy Foundation, the Lillian Goldman Charitable Trust, the Filomen M. D’Agostino Foundation, Rosalind P. Walter, Sandra Atlas Bass, the Mary and James G. Wallach Foundation, the Bradley L. Goldberg Family Foundation, Susan R. Malloy, Jennifer M. Combs, Timon J. Malloy and the Sun Hill Foundation, the Arlene and Milton D. Berkman Philanthropic Fund, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and by the nation’s public television stations.

About WNET

WNET is America’s flagship PBS station and parent company of THIRTEEN and WLIW21. WNET also operates NJTV, the statewide public media network in New Jersey. Through its broadcast channels, three cable services (THIRTEEN PBSKids, Create and World) and online streaming sites, WNET brings quality arts, education and public affairs programming to more than five million viewers each week. WNET produces and presents such acclaimed PBS series as Nature, Great Performances, American Masters, PBS NewsHour Weekend and a range of documentaries, children’s programs, and local news and cultural offerings. WNET’s groundbreaking series for children and young adults include Get the Math, Oh Noah! and Cyberchase as well as Mission US, the award-winning interactive history game. WNET highlights the tri-state’s unique culture and diverse communities through NYC-ARTS, Theater Close-Up, NJTV News with Mary Alice Williams and MetroFocus, the daily multi-platform news magazine focusing on the New York region. In addition, WNET produces online-only programming including the award-winning series about gender identity, First Person, and an intergenerational look at tech and pop culture, The Chatterbox with Kevin and Grandma Lill. In 2015, THIRTEEN launched Passport, an online streaming service which allows members to see new and archival THIRTEEN and PBS programming anytime, anywhere:


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