Butterfly Eggs


The eggs of butterflies consist of a membranous shell containing a fluid mass composed of the germ of the future caterpillar and the liquid food which is necessary for its maintenance and development until it escapes from the shell. The forms of these eggs are various. Some are spherical, others hemispherical, conical, and cylindrical. Some are barrel-shaped; others have the form of a turban. Many of them are angled, some depressed at the ends.

Their surface is variously ornamented. Sometimes they are ribbed, the ribs running from the center outwardly and downwardly along the sides like the meridian lines upon a globe. Between these ribs there is frequently found a fine network of raised lines variously arranged.

There is great variety in their color. Brown, blue, green, red, and yellow eggs occur. Greenish or greenish-white are common tints. The eggs are often ornamented with dots and lines of darker color. Species which are related to one another show their affinity even in the form of their eggs.

The eggs are laid upon the food-plant upon which the caterpillar, after it is hatched, is destined to live, and the female reveals wonderful instinct in selecting plants which are appropriate to the development of the larva. As a rule, the larvae are restricted in the range of their food-plants to certain genera, or families of plants.

The eggs are deposited sometimes singly, sometimes in small clusters, sometimes in a mass. Fertile eggs, a few days after they have been deposited, frequently undergo a change of color, and it is often possible with a magnifying-glass to see through the thin shell the form of the minute caterpillar which is being developed within the egg. Unfruitful eggs generally shrivel and dry up after the lapse of a short time.

The period of time requisite for the development of the embryo in the egg varies. Many butterflies are single-brooded; others produce two or three generations during the summer in temperate climates, and even more generations in subtropical or tropical climates. In such cases an interval of only a few days, or weeks at the most, separates the time when the egg was deposited and the time when the larva is hatched. When the period of hatching, or emergence, has arrived, the little caterpillar cuts its way forth from the egg through an opening made either at the side or on the top.

Many species have eggs which appear to be provided with a lid, a portion of the shell being separated from the remainder by a thin section, which, when the caterpillar has reached the full limit allowed by the egg, breaks under the pressure of the enlarging embryo within, one portion of the egg flying off, the remainder adhering to the leaf or twig upon which it has been deposited.

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