Butterfly eggs of Victoria

Museums Victoria

It is often said that one of the most delicate objects in nature is the wing of a butterfly.  
If that is the case, then how would you describe the delicate nature of the egg of a butterfly?
Butterfly eggs are tiny - most are less than 1 mm across.
The scale bar in this picture is 0.25 mm long.
In Victoria there are more than a hundred species of butterflies from five different families.
The five families are the Papilionidae (Swallowtails), Nymphalidae (Browns and Nymphs), Pieridae (Whites & Yellows), Lycaenidae (Hairstreaks, Blues and Coppers), and Hesperiidae (Skippers).
A recent book by Ross Field on the Victorian butterflies (published by Museum Victoria) took images of the eggs of each species, many for the first time.
<em>Jalmenus evagoras</em>, Imperial HairstreakScale bar = 1 mm
Because the eggs are so small, all the photographs were taken down a Leica microscope with a special digital camera attached.
The field of view down a microscope is extremely shallow. To get a 3D views of the entire egg 60-80 individual images of each egg were taken, each image being at a different focal plane of the egg. These images were then combined into a single 3D image using montaging software.
When all the pictures were taken we realised that the external sculpture of the eggs was unique to each family.
Papilionidae (Swallowtails)
The swallowtails are the smallest family of butterflies in Victoria with only five recorded species across the state. Butterflies in this family often have prominent tails on their hindwings that give the family its name.
The Swallowtails lay smooth, rounded eggs.
<em>Graphium macleayanum moggana</em>, Macleay's SwallowtailScale bar = 0.5 mm

<em>Graphium sarpedon chloredon</em>, Blue Triangle

Scale bar = 0.25 mm

<em>Papilio aegeus aegeus</em>, Orchard Swallowtail

Scale bar = 0.5 mm

<em>Papilio demoleus sthenelus</em>, Chequered Swallowtail

Scale bar = 0.5 mm

<em>Papilio anactus</em>, Dainty Swallowtail

Scale bar = 0.5 mm

Nymphalidae (Browns)
There are 29 species Browns and Nymphs in Victoria. Some, are very widespread and common, such as this Shouldered Brown.
The Browns lay ribbed eggs.
<em>Vanessa itea</em>, Yellow AdmiralScale bar = 0.25 mm

<em>Danaus petilia</em>, Lesser Wanderer

Scale bar = 0.25 mm

<em>Euploea core corrina</em>, Common Crow

Scale bar = 0.5 mm

<em>Acraea andromacha</em>, Glasswing

Scale bar = 0.25 mm

Pieridae (Whites & Yellows)
There are 13 species of Whites and Yellows in Victoria making it the second smallest family of butterflies in the state. Only a few species spend their entire life in Victoria. Most species migrate from the north; the family is much more common in tropical areas.
The Whites & Yellows lay tall, narrow eggs with a chequered pattern.
<em>Elodina padusa</em>, Narrow-winged Pearl-whiteScale bar = 0.25 mm

<em>Pieris rapae rapae</em>, Cabbage White

Scale bar = 0.25 mm

<em>Appias paulina ega</em>, Yellow Albatross

Scale bar = 0.25 mm

<em>Eurema similax</em>, Small Grass-yellow

Scale bar = 0.25 mm

<em>Catopsila pomona</em>, Lemon Migrant

Scale bar = 0.25 mm

The Lycaeidae (Hairstreaks, Blues and Coppers)
There are 41 species of Lycaeidae in Victoria making it the second largest family of butterflies in the state. Twelve species are of special conservation significance in Victoria and many others are also considered rare.
The Hairstreaks, Blues and Coppers lay eggs that are spiked or honeycombed.
<em>Jalmenus ictinus</em>, Stencilled HairstreakScale bar = 0.25 mm

<em>Hypochrysops ignitus ignitus</em>, Fiery Jewel

Scale bar = 0.25 mm

<em>Candalides heathi heathi</em>, Rayed Blue

Scale bar = 0.25 mm

<pseudalmenus chlorinda zephyrus< /em>, Silky Hairstreak

Scale bar = 0.25 mm

<em>Paralucia aurifera</em>, Bright Copper

Scale bar = 0.1 mm

<em>Ogyris amaryllis meridionalis</em>, Satin Azure

Scale bar = 0.25 mm

The Hesperiidae (Skippers)
There are 42 recorded species of Skippers in Victoria making it - just - the largest family of butterflies in the state. They are called skippers because of their fast, jerky flight.
The Skippers lay eggs that are broad at the base and ribbed.
<em>Signeta flammeata</em>, Bright Shield-skipperScale bar = 0.25 mm

<em>Antipoda atralba</em>, Diamond Sand-skipper

Scale bar = 0.5 mm

<em>Toxidia doubledayi</em>, Lilac Grass-skipper

Scale bar = 0.25 mm

<em>Toxidia peron</em>, Dingy Grass-skipper

Scale bar = 0.25 mm

<em>Motasingha trimaculata trimaculata</em>, Large Brown Skipper

Scale bar = 0.5 mm

Credits: Story

Butterfly egg images were taken by Ross Field and Simon Hinkley at Melbourne Museum with the assistance of Ken Walker.

Ross Field’s "Butterflies: identification and life history" provides amateur naturalists, bushwalkers and interested readers with a comprehensive guide to butterflies found in Victoria and the east coast of Australia. It is full of many other stunning colour photographs of butterflies in all their life stages from egg to adult.

Copies can be ordered from the Museum Victoria Shop:

https://museumvictoria.com.au/about/books-and-journals/books/science/back-list/butterflies/

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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