Saturday, 16 October 2010

butterflies (from Cairns)

The (blue - bottom picture) Ulysses is so hard to capture in flight. And then, when they finally land on a leaf for a rest, they fold their wings in tightly and you can see none of that glorious vibrant blue. They are so fast, fluttering everywhere around and around. We saw one female being chased by 3 males. And many females laying eggs on leaves. 

I cannot remember what butterfly is in the top pic (I'll find out for you, another time, if you're at all interested). The middle one is a Birdwing. {Sam took some video footage of two Birdwings doing their mating ritual, which was stunningly wonderful to watch. I'll upload it once we get home to Brisbane}.

Did you know what happens when a caterpillar curls itself into it's cocoon to go through it's metamorphisis into a butterfly? They actually totally disintegrate from caterpillar to yellow gloopy murk, then rebuild their cells one by one to become a butterfly. If you happened to (be cruel enough to) cut open a cocoon while the process is happening, you will really find no caterpillar, no butterfly, but yellow goop. Isn't that the most amazing, unbelievable thing you've ever heard. 
Well, perhaps you already knew that. But I didn't. And I've always wondered what happened, and how it happened. I never thought about the fact that caterpillars have 16 legs, whereas butterflies only have 6; and a butterfly body looks nothing like a caterpillar body (well, actually I had thought about that before); and how a butterfly needs reproductive organs, whereas a caterpillar doesn't. And also, about the difference between their eating habits - leaves with little mouths for a caterpillar, and nectar with a long probiscus for a butterfly. Totally different creatures; aren't they!

So, next time you look at the humble little caterpillar, have a think about all of that. 
{And the fact that the Hercules Moth doesn't have any mouth or digestive system at all, so only lives for a few days - just long enough to find a mate and reproduce and lay eggs. Or that some butterflies live for days, some for weeks, and some for a year.}


  1. I did actually know that but it never hurts to be reminded of how utterly weirdly amazing it is! We get a lot of Monarchs in our garden on swan plants but I've yet to catch one actually in the act of forming the chrysalis. Apparently when they're just hanging there upside down they're making the chrysalis under their skin and then they slough off the skin and voila! But I'm darned if I can see how there is a chrysalis under there. I've missed them by literally a minute at times, I'm sure I'll manage it eventually!

  2. Anonymous8:57 pm

    I have stumbled across your blog following links from one to the next to the next, as you do. Found your Slow Project and love the idea, am going to start to work on my own me thinks. Just what my life needs. Anyway I just wanted to say your blog is beautiful and I will definitely be coming back for another read and some Slow Project tips!

  3. I am a real big fan of "papillons" so amazing!Thanks I really enjoyed to learn a little more about how it all happen :)
    Enjoy your holiday xx


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