Tuesday, 3 September 2013

The Birth Of A Butterfly

Is a remarkable thing to witness. 

This week I have been playing Midwife to several Large Whites, at least two of which have needed my assistance and hatched out onto my finger, which was rather nice.

I watched the whole hatching process with one of them this morning from the second the pupa began to split to the moment the butterfly finally pulled his wings free and emerged fully. The whole process took over an hour and the butterfly was exhausted by the end of it. This was the first one I have witnessed from start to finish- I have been keeping an eye but missing the moment, with eight or so already having hatched out without me seeing any of it. Of the 46 pupas, about half have hatched and about half of those have been successful. Of the others, the main problem has been the failure of their wings to open up fully, leaving them with twisted frilly dresses which aren't much use for flying. T'is the way of nature- not everything survives.

This is how they looked as caterpillars....

 They then began to crawl up the side of the box and fall silent and still...

After a few days the pupas began to develope...

The caterpillar secures him or herself to the side of the  box with a single thread.

This is evident in the pupa too

This shot is the underside of a pupa

The wings are clearly evident in this picture

After ten days or so the butterfly begins to emerge, a split opening in the top of the pupa through which the butterfly wriggles (hard work, having watched them struggle to get free).

The wings are usually the last things to fully emerge after the body

Once out of the pupa the butterfly hangs on the side of the box to allow the wings to flood with liquid

Unfortunately, this ones wings didn't open properly and the butterfly died.

This one was more successful

And inquisitive

And flew off successfully into the garden, narrowly missing a passing Robin (how awful would that have been!)

Its been a very interesting experiment to watch them through their various stages, even if they are rather smelly at the caterpillar stage (L flatly refused to eat his tea with them anywhere near him due to the boiled cabbage smell). I guess what I would really like is to have some Moth Children, but unless you know who they are and therefore what to feed them it's an almost impossible job. 

Gorgeous warm sunshine here today. We're off Mulberrying again in a minute. I'll try to post the Blackberry Ice Cream and some of the Jelly recipes tomorrow, provided there are no last-minute panic pre-school preparations to do before Thursday!

Till next time, enjoy the rest of your day.

CT :-)


  1. Fabulous pics! We have then everywhere and keep stepping on them by mistake - squelch.

    1. There are more Whites than any other type of butterfly here and I expect it's the same everywhere. Probably they over-estimate to allow for the occasional squish :-)

  2. Fascinating. I found two in quick succession today, one climbing up the house wall. They are huge!

    1. I guess this is their final fling before Autumn arrives and the butterflies disappear.

  3. Facinating post CT and something great to see. I'm about to read the blackberry ice-cream post!

    1. It's been quite sad seeing how many didn't make it, either with wings that didn't open or a few who couldn't get out of the pupa.

  4. Fascinating post CT with some really interesting photos :) We raised a butterfly from a caterpillar when the children were young. I was just mesmerised by the moment of butterfly emergence - it is an awe-inspiring wonderful moment :)

    1. It is an incredible thing to watch isn't it? I've been surprised by how many have struggled though. Some seem to pop out very fast with no problems while others get stuck and their wings don't recover.

  5. WOW!! Fascinating stuff! shame about the crumpled wing specimens but as you say, tis the way of nature.

    1. Thanks Lou :-)

      It made me wonder what the percentage is in the wild of those that don't hatch out properly, presumably quite high which is why there are so many of them.


Thank you for leaving a comment. I always enjoy reading them. CT.