Colouration and Camouflage

Colouration and patterning is all important through all the stages of a Butterflies life. In this, and the following page some of the uses of markings for camouflage and warning in the various stages of a Butterflies development are outlined.

Eggs

The eggs when laid are very small and hard to spot, but even then they tend to be coloured the same as what they are laid on.

Caterpillar

Larvae use many tactics to avoid being eaten.

 

Here the Grey Dagger moth (Acronicta psi) larva is exhibiting bright colours and spines which must be very off putting to a potential predator. Bright colours are usually a sign that an animal is poisonous. Sometimes this can be a bluff. Grey Dagger moth larva - Acronicta psi

 

An alternative tactic is not to avoid attack, but make sure the wrong place is attacked. The Comma, Polygonia c-album, larva is trying to draw attention away from its head by having strong white colouration towards its rear end.

This kind of disruptive camouflage is extensively used by adult Butterflies.

Comma larva - disruptive camouflage.
Cryptic colouring is also used. If you blend into your surroundings then you are less likely to be spotted by a predator. The Canary speckled wood, Pararge xiphioides pictured left admirably demonstrates this. Some species have two (or more?) distinct colour forms depending on the foodplant and conditions.

 

Chrysalis

The pupal stage of a Butterfly is a potentially dangerous time as it cannot move. Some pupae try to blend in with their surroundings, for example the Peacock below. This species pupa actually tries to mimic the background of the location it rests in.

Peacock pupa - dark form. Peacock pupa - light form.
A dark Peacock pupa to match the netting it is attached beside. A lighter form to blend in with the green foliage.
The map pupa, pictured right blends beautifully with dead leaves, helping it evade birds. Map pupa camouflage

 

Next the Adult Butterfly

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