Sunday, November 14, 2010

Tracking butterflies

Butterflies are remarkable insects. Throughout their lifespan (which can range from anything from a week to a year depending on the species) they undergo huge transformations. Butterflies live across a wide variety of habitats from rainforest to home gardens. Why not try tracking them to see how many species you can find. A great one to look out for is the Blue Mormon; this native species is the second largest butterfly on the island and can be identified by its bright blue and black wings.

The life cycle of a butterfly consists of four stages;

1. Firstly butterflies will lay their eggs on the leaves of plants specially selected as being good for caterpillars to eat.

2. When the eggs hatch caterpillars emerge and eat the surrounding leaves they were born on. At this stage a caterpillar’s main priority is to eat!

3. As soon as the caterpillar is done growing they form themselves into a chrysalis, inside this chrysalis is where all the action takes place with the caterpillar rapidly changing into a.....

4. Butterfly!! The newly formed butterflies emerge weak and vulnerable, after a few hours they pump blood into their wings and fly off in search of a mate.


Often people try and catch butterflies in nets to get a better look at them. However you really need to know what you’re doing as butterflies are extremely fragile. Touching their wings for example can break important veins and leave them flightless. The best way to track butterflies is to take a wander out into your garden or local area near lots of flowering plants and just have a look to see how many different species you can find. Why not try spraying your hands with sugary water or leave some fruit in a dish in your garden to see how many turn up for dinner. Another great way to increase your butterfly population is to plant host plants, these are plants that are perfect for butterflies to feed from or lay their eggs upon. The Blue Mormon butterfly likes to lay its eggs upon curry plants, why not try planting one to encourage these beautiful butterflies to visit.

» Find out how else you can help to protect Sri Lanka's endangered species

Illustration by Asia Hewapathirana

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