Butterfly Eggs: 6 Questions Answered

Butterfly eggs are spherical and oval-shaped and vary in size and color depending on the butterfly species. Common garden butterfly species lay eggs that are usually yellowish and light-colored.

What Are Butterfly Eggs Like?

butterfly eggs
Butterfly eggs

butterfly’s egg is small, spherical, and oval-shaped. The egg size is about 0.039 inches to 0.12 inches in diameter, like a pinhead. The butterfly species determine the eggs’ features as the eggs can be smooth, textured, oval, or round.

The butterfly egg comprises a chorion, a hard outer shell that protects the developing larva, aeropyles that act as breathing tubes for the developing larva, and micropyles, tiny funnel-shaped openings at one end through which sperms enter the egg for fertilization.

Butterfly eggs’ colors vary from white, yellow, green, or other shades.

How Do Female Butterflies Protect Their Eggs?

Before each butterfly species lays its eggs, it spends time going from plant to plant to confirm whether the plants are good for egg laying.

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The host plant must be growing in precise conditions for the well-being of the butterfly eggs; it must have the right degree of shade, the correct height to avoid being eaten by grazing animals, and the right conditions in terms of temperature and humidity.

Butterflies spend time searching and testing to find the correct host plant. The type of host plant will vary according to the butterfly species. For example, the Monarch butterfly‘s host plant is the milkweed plant, and female Monarch butterflies lay eggs on milkweed leaves.

After locating the correct plant species (usually tender young leaves or buds), the female butterfly lays its eggs either one at a time, in clusters, or hundreds of batches. The eggs are laid on the leaves, flower buds, or bark crevices.

A large number of eggs ensures a high chance of survival. Not all eggs will hatch, and those that do are vulnerable to wasps and aphids.

The host plants play a vital role in good egg development. They provide the right degree of shade, the right height and position from where the eggs cannot be eaten by browsing herbivores, and food for the caterpillar hatchlings.

To protect the egg and the developing embryo, the butterfly attaches the eggs using an adhesive-like substance that glues the egg to the plant leaf. The glue-like substance holds the eggs to the leaf so they can hardly be separated.

How Long Does It Take a Butterfly Egg to Hatch?

A butterfly egg takes about 3 to 8 days to hatch. The number of days depends on temperature, the season, and the type of butterfly. For example, Monarch butterfly eggs hatch in about 4 days.

Color change on the butterfly’s eggs before hatching to larva (caterpillar) is also common. With some butterfly species, their eggs begin to turn dark, indicating that they are close to hatching.

Can Butterflies Overwinter in Eggs?

Some species of butterflies overwinter in eggs. This means butterfly embryos may take months to develop. To survive winter, those undergo diapause (a process of suspended development in an insect, invertebrate, or mammal embryo).

Some of the butterfly species that overwinter as eggs include:

  • Copper butterflies
  • Banded hairstreak butterflies
  • Pine white butterflies

Can You Care For Butterfly Eggs?

butterfly eggs
Butterfly eggs

You can care for butterfly eggs. A clear plastic container that has a lid is your ideal storage. Punch holes in the lid for ventilation. Put the snipped stem holding the leaf with the eggs inside the plastic container and cover it.

Trim a piece of paper towel an inch or two larger than the lid and place it on top. This will allow limited ventilation, as too much humidity inside the container encourages the growth of bacteria, mold, and diseases which can be fatal to the developing embryo. At the same time, the paper towel will prevent the dehydration of eggs.

The eggs hatch after 3 to 8 or more days, depending on the butterfly species. To avoid the escape of the small caterpillars that are yet to hatch, also place a dry paper towel between the lid and the container.

When the newly hatched caterpillar emerges from its egg, it will eat the egg shells and then move on to the host plant’s leaf. Harvest fresh green leaves from the host plant where you found the butterfly eggs. Remove the old, shriveled, and dead leaves from the container and add the new fresh leaves.

As molting of the caterpillar starts, and the caterpillar continues to grow, move it to a larger container so there’s enough room for the adult butterfly that will emerge to spread its wings.

It may take up to 2 weeks for the butterfly to fully develop from egg, larva, and chrysalis (pupa) to adult.

How Do You Get Butterfly Eggs?

You can get butterfly eggs by collecting them from host plants or buying from butterfly breeding facilities. Once you locate butterfly eggs, don’t detach them from the leaf. The best way is to cut the leaf together with the stem from the host plant.

If you don’t find eggs on the host plants near you, check for butterflies flying around the host plants. Once the butterfly hovers, lands on a leaf for a few seconds, and curves the end of its abdomen toward the leaf, it is probably laying eggs.

If you’re having trouble finding the eggs, purchase them from butterfly breeders. The popular species commonly sold include the Monarch butterfly eggs, Black swallowtail butterfly, and Sulphur butterfly. You can buy eggs from these breeders or online sources like Amazon.

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