Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Butterfly Stages

My Christmas holidays started on the 23rd December and ended on January 1st. I had a series of 4 days each in the province, next 4 days returning to the city, and another 4 days in the province again. Of course, i spent most of these days looking for the small critters in the vicinity. Our area is still rich in biodiversity because pesticides are not used there, so i have lots of subjects to photograph.

We have a big golden shower at the corner of the street, which is constantly pruned because the branches grow very tall. The growing new shoots always provide a haven for some butterflies,  one of which is the common emigrant, Catopsilia pomona. I am glad that there are some larvae at the lowest shoots that i can photograph clearly while on the ground.
This is the branch which has not been fully eaten by the larvae. Other growths are fully defoliated.

A lot of newly hatched larvae can be seen under most of the leaves, defoliating most of them.

As they grow they change colors, I saw two different patterns or color of the larvae, the above is mostly green with black stripes at both sides. (Please notice that the pupa is at the right of the larva above).

The above is the more mature and larger of the green larva, while that at the bottom has wider black stripes at the sides and only a narrower brownish dorsal stripe along the length of its body. 

I watched and observed them a lot of times during the day. I could have taken a video and document the development, however it didn't occur to me at the beginning. So i just took pictures.

The head part is yellow, spared from the black color of the body. There are iridescent bluish dots on the black sides. At the start, i thought they are of different instars, but later i realized the black is the female and the green is the male. 

I lost the blacks during the night, maybe they went out to pupate. A lot of the larvae do not pupate at the host plant, and i didn't see any of them in the nearby plants. I actually wondered where they went. The above  larva is ready to pupate, and is just one of the two I saw in the entire plant. I thought they may have lost time to go away for pupation, so they might as well attach themselves to the host leaves. This condition was observed on 22 December.

I observed the ready to pupate larva, but i went to the house for a few minutes, and it is already a pupa when I returned. I was so disappointed with the sudden change that eluded me. This pupated on the afternoon of December 22.

When i returned to the province on the 29th December, the wing design is already visible in the pupa. On the 30th December i got the whole branch and put it inside a net cage in the house for easy observation.

The wing patterns become more visible but it looks more yellow than green. I am expecting that it will eclose soon, so I watched it most of the time. Eclosion is the process of the adult emergence from the pupa. My nephew and niece also watch it most specially when i eat or go to the toilet, or have to do something important. Three days later on New Year's Day, it's time for me to leave again for the city. It still has not become yet a butterfly. I was a bit frustrated because i cannot document the emerging adult. Besides, the free adults around us are very difficult to photograph, as they fly fast and do not stay long on the flowers enough for me to shoot. 

On January two, my niece texted that it was already a butterfly when they woke up. They were not also able to watch the eclosion process. They just said it is so beautifully yellow! I realized that what i reared is the female, more yellow than green. 

I guess the adults look like these (above and below), which are shot earlier from previous batches. Below is just a close-up with more details, but they are the same.

Both the above adults are males, which i took some other time in the past. I don't have the picture of the female yet, and  they are less in number than the males. Although I failed in some aspects of observation and photos, I also learned a lot. I am sure my niece and nephew also learned much from the experience. I hope next time i stay at home during long weekends, i will again have the opportunity and hopefully conditions be more serendipitous for me to record the process of growth and development.

nature notes logo


  1. An interesting post. There are some of these larvae in my garden too. I'm particularly drawn to the image of the female with dark stripe and yellow head,s tudded with dots. Great photography.

  2. Wow! The whole life history of the beautiful butterfly!Thanks for the interesting post.

  3. These look like a foreign butterfly we have lots of as well although I have never seen the mature caterpillars...will have to keep an eye on them this year to see if it is a similar butterfly

  4. FANTASTIC pictures! Wish I had this kind of insect life in the garden.

  5. How very interesting! This is one of the things I miss during winter--watching the butterflies. It is so nice that you can observe them now. Wonderful photos and description!

  6. you are doing great with these butterfly series....even if you do not have all the long lenses, you have found something in nature that you can photo really well.

  7. Wow..wonderful series and great detail Andrea. You got the little heads and the feet and you can see the wings through the pupa. I have missed things even with raising my monarch butterflies. It happens so fast that you would have to just sit and watch and never leave. Lovely for this week's Nature Notes...Michelle

  8. Hi Andrea,
    What a fantastic post. Lovely pictures and so interesting. I have seen Catopsilia when I have been on holiday in Mauritius and the Canary Islands. That is a different species - the African Migrant. I have found them impossible to photograph! It is great to see them as caterpillars and chrysalises. If I am lucky enough to go on holiday again to somewhere where they occur I will look out for their food plant.


Your visits and comments are the life of this site. I certainly appreciate them and I will make sure to return the favor. Energies are not destroyed, they are just transformed, so healthy energies be with us all, just like the breath of life!

But i am requesting that no other personal links should be put on your comments. I am sorry, but backlinks give me some problems, so i might not publish them.Thank you very much for understanding.