This post is about the life story of a butterfly. The photos I use here are taken from a few types of butterflies and not from a single type. I am very glad that visitors are allowed to take photographs at the farm. As I had only 2 hours to spare at the Penang Butterfly Farm, I took many photographs for knowledge and rememberance. A picture does speak a thousand words and from the photos, I would later be able to find more information from the internet and from books.
I would like to dedicate this post to Ms Carol Duke of Flower Hill Farm blog. Her post titled, "A Royal Begining ... The Metamorphosis of a Monarch Butterfly" and the subsequent posts thereafter had inspired me to know more about the butterflies of my own country and make my garden more wildlife friendly.
|Blue Glassy Tiger (Parantica agleoides) with hair pencil on a misai kuching (cat whiskers) plant|
Remember this guy from my last post with this weird thingy? Well, as Mr Andy from Penang Butterfly Farm pointed out, this structure is actually the 'hair-pencil' of a male butterfly for use in courtship and self-defence.
Question: How do butterflies mate?
Answer: From the internet
Male and female butterflies release pheromones into the surroundings. Pheromones are chemicals that acts as sexual stimulants or natural aphrodisiac for insects such as the butterflies. A male butterfly can detect the female's pheromones from a far distance and he can also seek out the females by sight. If they like each other, they will embark on a courtship flight which may last an hour or so or even overnight.
During courtship a male butterfly will flap his wings very fast and release a cloud of tiny scales just above the female's antannae. These scales contains pheromones. Some types of male butterflies have hair-pencils inside their abdomens which are released out when courting. The hair-pencils fans the female with pheromones. If Mr and Miss Butterfly like each other, they are ready to mate.
“The Life Cycle of Butterflies - Penang Butterfly Farm Part 3”, a copyrighted post, was written for My Nice Garden blog by Autumn Belle @ http://www.mynicegarden.com/ on March 4th, 2011.
|A pair of New Lacewings (Cethosia cyane)|
Both butterflies are usually linked tail to tail and facing opposite directions when mating. The male butterfly passes a sperm packet or spermatorphore to the female. It then fertilizes each egg as it passes down the female's egg-laying tube. The butterflies can be in flight during the mating process but most often they choose to remain stationary.
|1. Caterpillar's poo-poo of the Lacewing butterfly*|
A female butterfly can lay the same batch of eggs on a variety of different plants. These are the plants that will provide food for the caterpillars of that particular butterfly. In their natural environment, the survival rate is normally about 2%. The egg stage is the 1st stage in the life cycle of a butterfly.
I'm so sorry, I didn't get to photograph any butterfly eggs at the farm so the above picture is actually the caterpillar's poo-poo. My grateful thanks to my learned friend, Andrea for pointing out that the above picture is caterpillar excreta.
By looking at the excreta, experts eyes can identify what stage of the instar or what type of butterfly.
|2. Newly hatched caterpillars - 1st instar*|
|3. Caterpillar of the Paper Kite (Idea leuconoe)*|
|4. Pupa of Blue Glassy Tiger (Parantica agleoides)*|
When the caterpillar has grown big enough, it attaches itself to a safe place. It sheds off its skin to reveal a pupa or chrysallis. The outer layer of the pupa will harden to protect the developing butterfly. This is the 3rd stage of the life cycle. It is the most dangerous and vulnerable stage, having little or no protection from predators, and relying mainly on mimicry and camourflage. It takes about 1-2 weeks for the pupa to mature into an adult butterfly.
|5. Pupa of the Local Tree Nymph (Idea hypermnestra)*|
At the Penang Butterfly Farm, there is a Pupa Station where visitors can see the real live eggs, larvae, pupa and different types of butterflies emerging from the chrysallis. There is also an information centre and exhibition center where one can view preserved specimens.
|6. Dark Blue Tiger (Tirumala septentrionis)|
It is my first time watching butterflies emerging from their chrysallis. Also, my first time experience with a butterfly perched on my shoulder. In my home garden, I have seen the eggs, caterpillars and chrysallis. I have even seen newly born butterflies a few times and held them on my fingers but never once have I witness the birth of a butterfly.
|7. Common Sailor (Neptis hylas papaja)|
Does this butterfly know or remember the part of its life as the caterpillar it was before?
|8. Indian Yellow Nawab (Polyura jalysus)|
Can you see lots of hearts/love shapes on the edge of its wings ?
This post has been updated on March 5th, 2011. My grateful thanks to Mr Andy Loke, staff of Penang Butterfly Farm for providing the information marked * and the identification of the caterpillars and butterflies.
Some related posts by wildlife friendly gardeners:
1. Andrea - Philippine Butterflies - Butterfly pictures from a butterfly enthusiast.
2. Sunita, "The Butterfly Farmer" - Raising butterflies in a high rise apartment
3. Rhonda - "Caterpillar Club - Raising butterflies in a fish tank
4. Jack - Monarch Butterfly Feeding Station - Preparing for the return of migratory Monarchs
I am linking in to Fertilizer Friday this week, grateful thanks to Tootsie for hosting it here.