Beauty at end of dramatic cycle

NATURAL WORLD

PAUL GAY
Last updated 07:54 27/03/2014
Butterfly
 

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At first glance something about this butterfly doesn't seem to be quite right. The wings look a little uneven and the abdomen appears swollen.

There's a good reason for these observations.

Just minutes before this photograph was taken all that can be seen of this red admiral was tightly tucked away in the chrysalis shell that can be seen just behind the butterfly's wings.

The photograph was taken at about 8am and the night before it had been noticed that the chrysalis had darkened in colour and that the red colouring on the tightly folded wings could be seen through the translucent chrysalis skin. This was a sure sign that something dramatic was soon to happen.

Next morning as the sun began to shine, the chrysalis shook violently, then its skin split and a fat ungainly butterfly with crumpled wings quickly emerged and moved to a position where it could hang upside down on the branch.

Immediately the abdomen started to pulse and in doing so fluid started pumping into the wings which began to expand and form quite quickly. At the time this photograph was taken the process was nearly completed with just a small amount of fluid left in the abdomen to complete the development of the wings.

Three hours later the wings had hardened and a beautiful adult red admiral flew off to some flowering native daisies where it began to feed. A miracle of nature!

The whole life cycle process would have started a month or so earlier when a female butterfly laid some eggs on a native stinging nettle plant. The eggs soon hatched with the tiny caterpillars beginning to feed. After several weeks and quite rapid growth they would have stopped feeding and changed into the chrysalis stage prior to the adult emerging. Egg, caterpillar, chrysalis and adult. A four-stage life cycle.

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- The Southland Times

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