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Wed 11th August 2010

Posted on August 12, 2010 at 5:25 AM

The life cycle of the Small White butterfly

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About a month ago I was working in the garden when I watched a Small White butterfly lay its eggs on some weeds in an area that I was clearing. Since this section of the garden was about to be covered in stones, I uprooted the plant and put it in a container to see if anything hatched. In only 4 weeks, these eggs had turned into adult butterflies - it is amazing how quickly the whole process happens. So below is a series of photos showing the stages of the cycle (I was going to call it a 'photo essay' but that is far too pretentious).

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eggs - laid singly at the base of the leaves of, what I think is called "Swine Cress"

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Larva - probably 2nd instar? - [instar means larval 'stage' - after each instar the skin is shed]

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Larva - about a week or so old

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Larva - final instar, feeding up ready for pupation

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Larva - ready for pupation - note the bed of silk (and hairs?) it has put down on the surface

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Pupating larva - It was difficult to catch the change from larva to pupa - it seemed to happen very suddenly. Note the silk girdle round the body to hold the pupa in place.

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Pupa - the colour varied from bright green to brown

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Pupa - this pupa has the adult butterfly almost ready to break out

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adult - just emerged from the pupa

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adult - this recently-emerged individual shows the beautiful lemon-yellow colouration on the underwing of the species when fresh

Categories: 2010 Summer