Shortly after the wings have been pumped full of fluid and dried, all the leftover products of the metamorphosis are excreted. The meconium.  This is normally a reddish fluid, the meconium, and has given rise to fables of showers of blood when many butterflies hatch together.

Well, the process is complete, the cycle starts again. Some species complete this cycle many times a year, others only once. Some alpine or arctic species take two years to complete their cycle, giving rise to abundance only in alternate years. The number of cycles per year is known as the butterflies voltinism, hence bivoltine would be two generations a year, polyvoltine would be many generations.

I'm sure you'll agree the process is a remarkable one, over the coming years I will try to photograph the life-cycle of other species many of which have unique and quite different processes. The Large blue, Maculinea arion, for example spends its larval and pupal stage in an ants nest.

I'll leave you with a series putting everything in perspective. All the pictures are scaled to show the relative size of each of the stages of a butterflies life.

Metamorphosis sequence.



All pictures in these pages copyright to Simon Coombes. Permission must be sought and obtained for any use.