Get to Know the Process of Perfect Metamorphosis of a Butterfly – Who is not familiar with this beautiful insect? Butterflies are one of the most beautiful living things on earth. These colorful butterflies with various shades are often referred to as natural “flying flowers”. Butterflies are born as caterpillars that most people hate and turn into one of the most beautiful creatures with amazing wings.
As insects that usually fly during the day ( diurnal) , butterflies belong to the order Lepidoptera and are grouped in the suborder Rhopalocera. Butterfly life is closely related to flowering plants.
As insect pollinators of plant flowers, butterflies play an ecological role in sucking flower nectar to maintain the balance of the ecosystem. Indonesia as a paradise for butterfly lovers has around 2,500 types of butterflies.
This insect has four wings covered with small scales. When the butterfly isn’t flying, its bright, patterned wings fold over its back.
Butterflies are patterned insects that evolved about 60 million years ago. The beauty of the wings and the metaphorical power of the emergence of a butterfly completely formed from an unpromising cocoon.
This makes the butterfly an object of awe and inspiration. The nature, development and evolution of butterflies in different wing patterns have attracted the attention of scientists.
Even though it has been studied since ancient times, there are so many butterfly secrets that are starting to unfold one by one. The butterfly’s wing pattern appears to have many functions related to its survival, such as camouflage, mimicry, partner recognition and even warning signals.
Butterflies are seen as a spiritual symbol in many ancient beliefs. In the past, the ancient Egyptians and Greeks viewed butterflies as creatures from the afterlife or ancestral spirits who came to visit their descendants on earth.
In other myths, the butterfly is believed to be a symbol of grace. South Americans believe that dreams featuring butterflies are a good sign. Then the Irish people believed that the presence of a butterfly would bring good luck.
This one insect moves slowly from one flower to another while sucking nectar or flower juice to be brought to its nest. Butterflies are known as plant pollinating insects that help pollinate flower pollen on various types of plants.
Besides having beautiful wings, butterflies also have two antennae on their heads. The slightly rounded butterfly antennae are known as club antennas. The antenna serves as a balance and sense of smell of flower nectar.
Illustration of Butterfly Metamorphosis (source: allyouneedisbiology.wordpress.com)
Butterflies are one of the insects that undergo complete metamorphosis or holometabolism. What is metamorphosis?
Metamorphosis is a process of biological development in animals that can change appearance and structure after hatching. These plant pollinating insects go through complete metamorphosis with the sequence of egg, caterpillar (larvae), cocoon (pupa), and adult (imago) stages.
Generally, most people feel disgusted with caterpillars. On the other hand, many people like butterflies with the beauty of their wings. Check out the following review to find out the complete butterfly metamorphosis.
In general, butterflies from the Papilionidae family lay eggs one by one or stacked on a host plant. Female butterflies will lay their eggs on stalks, leaves, or other parts of plants that will later be used as food for larvae or caterpillars.
Butterfly eggs have a variety of colors and shapes with a size of 1-2 mm. The shape itself is half round, round, oval, and cypress. Then, what about the stadium period?
The egg stage period in each type of butterfly is different. Then the female butterflies produce a varying number of eggs, some lay a small number of eggs and some lay a large number of eggs.
There are several species that lay eggs with a small number, which is about 30 eggs or even fingers can be counted. Several other species produce a relatively large number of eggs, which is around 100-200 throughout their lives.
Please note, the number of female butterfly eggs greatly determines its sustainability. However, there are several other factors that can affect the survival of butterflies.
Another factor is the natural threats that butterflies must face, such as the presence of parasites or predators. These factors make the butterfly only able to leave a few eggs that will successfully hatch to the larval, pupa and imago stages.
2. Larva (Caterpillar)
Illustration of Butterfly Larva Morphology (source: repository.upi.edu)
The next butterfly metamorphosis is a larva or what is often known as a caterpillar. In this phase, the larva or caterpillar experiences an active and intensive feeding phase to support its development. This phase will be marked by a change of skin or commonly known as molting.
The molting stage from one to the next is called an instar. The color difference in each larva or caterpillar is intended as a strategy to avoid predators.
Some brightly colored caterpillars can attract attention as a sign of danger or warning colouration. Why is it called a red flag? Because this brightly colored caterpillar will remind predators that it is poisonous.
Various larvae or caterpillars have different hairs or spines on the surface of their bodies. The shape, color, fur, and food for each type of larva or caterpillar are different.
The morphology of butterfly larvae is generally cylindrical in shape consisting of a thorax, chepal and abdomen. There are eyes and a strong mouth apparatus in the chepal butterfly larvae.
This type of mouth serves to bite and chew or chewing mouth part. Then on the thorax there are three pairs of short legs and four pairs of prolegs or pseudo legs.
Life in the larval phase tends to be very practical, namely eating and growing. Larvae will eat continuously throughout the day to collect energy reserves in the pupal stage.
In this phase the larvae will be very selective in terms of food selection. The larvae only eat food that comes from the host plant that the female butterfly has chosen when laying her eggs. This phase takes about 1-1.5 months.
3. Pupa (cocoon)
The resting phase after the larvae is fully grown and stops eating is called the pupa or cocoon stage. During the process of changing to an adult butterfly or imago, the pupa will be wrapped in crystals and does not move.
At this stage, each larva has a silk gland that will help it hook on stems, twigs or leaves. Inside the chrysanthemum layer, which seems to be silent and resting, a major change process takes place which will form an adult butterfly ready to emerge from the pupal skin.
Generally, the pupa has a green or brown color as a self-defense mechanism for the larvae from predators. The pupa will resemble the color of the plant as a form of self-defense mechanism. In the pupal stage, butterfly death often occurs because it is easily infected by parasitic animals.
The parasite will pierce the pupa’s body and lay eggs inside. Then the pupa or cocoon will die when the parasite eggs manage to hatch and eat the body. In general, the pupal phase lasts about 1-2 weeks.
4. Imago (Butterfly)
Illustration of Imago Morphology (source: repository.upi.edu)
Abiotic factors such as air humidity, air temperature, and sunlight will affect the butterfly that will come out of the pupa. These butterflies generally appear shortly after sunrise or during the day.
Why so? This aims to help the drying process of butterfly wings so that they can fly properly in search of food. The butterfly that emerges from the pupa begins with the spiracles or vents on the pupa crystals.
Air entering the pupa’s body will open the pupa’s shell just behind the head. Then the butterfly will force its body to get out of the pupa crystallization. Once out, the butterfly will settle down and barely move for a few minutes to pump blood to its wings.
When ready to fly, adult butterflies will spread their wings to find food in the form of nectar. In addition, adult butterflies will breed to find partners and continue their offspring.