Count Your Blessings!

With love and passion, everyone can have a nice garden...Elaine Yim

Count Your Blessings!
Count The Garden By The Flowers, Never By The Leaves That Fall.
Count Your Life With Smiles And Not The Tears That Roll.
..... Author unknown.

Knowing me, Knowing you..... Aha.....!

Notice Board

Malaysian Flora USDA Zone 11
Welcome to our exotic world of everlasting summers and tropical rainforests!

Friday, March 4, 2011

The Life Cycle of Butterflies - Penang Butterfly Farm Part 3

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 @ on March 4th, 2011.

A pair of New Lacewings (Cethosia cyane)
Love is like a butterfly: It goes where it pleases and it pleases wherever it goes.
 ~Author Unknown

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*

There is nothing in a caterpillar that tells you it's going to be a butterfly.
~Richard Buckminster Fuller

The eggs will hatch into caterpillars who will feed on the leaves. This 2nd stage is called the larva stage. Caterpillars have a huge appetite as they are in their body building stage. They will molt or change skins about 5 times as they grow bigger and their body is also undergoing some changes.

*A caterpillar between molts is called an 'instar':
Egg --> 1st instar --> 2nd instar --> 3rd instar --> 4th instar --> 5th instar --> chrysalis --> imago

3.  Caterpillar of the Paper Kite (Idea leuconoe)*
The caterpillar does all the work but the butterfly gets all the publicity.
~Attributed to George Carlin

This caterpillar is black and white banded with red spots, is a larvae of the Rice Paper Butterfly (Idea leuconoe) aka Paper Kite, White Tree Nymph.

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)
The 4th and final stage is when the adult butterfly emerges from the chrysallis. Adult butterflies live for a few days to a year depending on the species. Their main mission in life is to reproduce their future generation. Some butterflies can mate and lay eggs on the same day that they emerge from the chrysallis.

This place looks like a maternity or birthing centre for butterflies!

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)
Seeing their whole life cycle and watching these creepy crawlies turn into such gorgeous butterflies gives me a feeling of rebirth. It's like starting life anew as a completely different individual. I also have this strange feeling.

Does this butterfly know or remember the part of its life as the caterpillar it was before?

8. Indian Yellow Nawab (Polyura jalysus)

Beautiful and graceful, varied and enchanting, small but approachable,
butterflies lead you to the sunny side of life. And everyone deserves a little sunshine.
~Jeffrey Glassberg

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.


  1. Love those pupa with different colors hanging on a single plant twig. I've visited many butterfly farms here in the country and one abroad, that in KL. Which one is bigger, that in Penang or that in KL. YOu might want to see my old posts on butterflies, maybe long before we know each other, haha.

  2. Really lovely. Every time I see these beautiful photos, I remember the KL Bird Park and KL Butterfly Farm that I visited last year without the camera. Damn! :) Thanks for remembering yours.

  3. You must have enjoyed yourself very much.

    Don't forget to say "thank you" to those butterflies.

  4. Just wonder where the colours come from... so beautiful, so well designed, and similar within the same species.

  5. Dear Autumn Belle, Thank you for the kind dedication! I love your post! In a nearby butterfly house they have only a box with the chrysalis hanging but your place is so wonderful in having the butterflies lay their eggs or at least the folks placing the eggs out in a special section more like nature. Lovely images and words. I enjoyed reading your text and the quotes very much. It is magical to think of a caterpillar nurturing part of itself that will later become a butterfly. I have often ask the question . . . can they remember being a caterpillar and can a caterpillar know that its destiny is to be a butterfly. Great questions. I wonder? Wonderful post!! Thank you so!

  6. So many beautiful butterflies in one centre. I love them but not the yucky caterpillars! Great post Auntumn Belle!

  7. Gorgeous post!! Fabulous! and so lovely to dedicate it to Carol..I love her blog ..she is amazing! Wpw...beautiful post Autumn....Super-Awesome!!!

  8. Great photos and outing with the butterflies. Nice post.

  9. Beautiful pictures. I really enjoyed them as we have raised butterflies in a fish tank in our kitchen and it is a fascinating thing to watch! If you are interested in how we did it, you can see pictures of our experience here:

    ~~Rhonda :)

  10. Wonderful post, Autumn Belle! I must admit I had the same reaction as P3 to the caterpillars, but that's part of the process. The butterflies are so colorful!

  11. Lovely photos...I've never seen the whole process either...quite interesting! Thank for this post, very informative.

  12. I haven't seen a pupa before. Love the patterns on the caterpillas, although also very geli-lah.

  13. What great detail you observed. Do you have the Monarch butterfly? When I was living in Singapore, they black ones came to my lime plants.

  14. Awesome post on the butterflies. Your photos are wonderful.

  15. Great post Autumn Belle! It could be a part of a fun book for kids! Superb pictures!

  16. Great post Autumn Belle. Those are excellent images to go with the information that you have given us. I must be lucky to be on the tail end because the post has already been updated.

  17. I always wondered about butterflies and their mating!
    ( Really!) It was always mysterious to me.
    I learned a lot from this post about them. They are beautiful creatures indeed!

  18. I am here again, as i really appreciated Rhonda's fish tank project with her great photos. It's good that that species of swallowtail is very beautiful, and the caterpillar food is just so accessible. Our swallowtails usually eat citrus leaves, which is a bit more difficult to get than parsley. I suggest look at her posts, so beautiful.

  19. This is a beautiful and Informative post. Thanks for sharing. It made my day because it got me day dreaming about spring. Lovely!

  20. Hi Autumnbelle - your butterfly photos are lovely. We have a butterfly house that sometimes I visit - the next time I must bring my camera.

    I took that link off to that website - if google have not done anything about this site for a week then I don't think it will ever get sorted.

  21. Andrea, I can’t compare Penang with KL because the last time I visited KL BF was so very long ago. Yeah, you have also written 7 posts todate regarding butterflies in Philippines and I have updated this post with your link.

    One, the critters near your home are interesting too.

    Rainfied, yes I have enjoyed myself. Oh dear, when I saw those butterflies, I was speechless, so didn’t get to say “thank you”. ;~p

    Bangchik, now, the caterpillars can be forgiven for walloping all the veggies when we know they need to eat so much to become a colourful, beautiful butterfly.

    Carol, your Monarch posts are really out of this world, of which there is no comparison.

    P3Chandan, haha, we need to bear with the creepy crawly when we think about the gorgeous butterflies.

    Kiki, yay! So nice to see you here!

    Keats, thanks for your sunshine words!

    Rhonda, I am really amazed by what you’ve been doing with a recycled fish tank! I have inserted you link in my post. Cheers!

    Beth (Plant Postings), yeah you are right.

    Theanne, yeah, it’s fun to know how butterflies do ‘it’.

    Milka, yeah, the chrysalis and caterpillars look very geli. The bulu-bulu ones lagi terror, haha.

    Ann, I have heard about the Monarch butterfly liking the misai kuching plant in Malaysia, but I haven’t seen any in my garden yet.

    Wong, welcome to My Nice Garden! Thank you very much for the visit and nice words.

    Eileeninmd, you are so sweet!

    Tatyana, yeah, many parents don’t like caterpillars but the kids find them interesting though a bit scary.

    Bom, thank you very much for the encouraging words.

    Rosey, in our culture, butterfly is a symbol of love and courtship.

    Andrea, thanks a lot for the return visit and recommendations.

    Vetsy, I’m sure your dream is as wonderful as Alice’s in wonderland.

    Rosie, oh, the butterflies photos will be awesome under your expert hands. I’m also very angry and sad about the plagiarism by the offender. Hope google gives that fella the rightful treatment very soon.


Words are like the voice of the heart... Confucius

Note: If you are unable to comment on my latest post, click on the post title to reopen the post and try writing your comments again. Comments under "Anonymous" will be automatically treated as spam if no name is included.


Blog Widget by LinkWithin