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New arrivals and seed pod lookalikes - Butterflies at Wisley with Cara Smith

Posted by Sara Draycott on 20 Feb 2013 at 05:10 PM

At last warmer, brighter weather arrived, albeit temporary. The butterflies certainly enjoyed it and were very active for a few days.  When the snowy weather was with us I ordered some extra pupae to bulk up numbers to make sure the butterflies were visible in the Tropical Zone.  Stratford Butterfly Farm supply us and despite the late notice were able to oblige (thank you!). In the extra order were some Eryphanis polyxena, a species we have not had in the event before.  This lovely, large butterfly looks like a cross between a Blue Morpho and an Owl Butterfly.  It has browny caramel coloured wings with spots resembling eyes which open to reveal iridescent blue patches. Below is a photo of it resting with wings closed.


The larvae and pupae of this species (see below) are very interesting, resembling long seed pods reminiscent of legumes but pale grey/brown in colour. It is always exiting to get a new addition to the event.

This week I want to share with you my observations of the butterfly emerging from its pupa, as, working so closely with the butterflies, I have been lucky enough to witness this a lot and it is quite fascinating.  Here is a photo of our newest arrival in it's pupa, waiting to emerge.

They emerge head first so head and legs emerge from the pupa they then curl their body upwards to grab hold of the cane with their legs and pull the rest of their body out of the pupa shell so they are left upside down from the cane. At this stage they often look pretty bedraggled, wings are small and often crumpled and the body is swollen with fluid appearing short and fat. This fluid is then pumped into their wings to expand them or excreted. Their wings are very soft and damp when they first emerge and they need to hang from a branch or cane for several hours before they are dry and ready to fly.

We have an emergence cage on view during the butterfly display so if you are lucky you may be able to see one emerge for yourself.  But be quick - this is the final week. 


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