Clip of the Week – birdwing pupation timelapse

Cairns birdwing butterfly caterpillar pupation timelapse

This clip shows a Cairns birdwing caterpillar metamorphosing into a chrysalis. It was filmed in Queensland, Australia, in April, by Jurgen Freund.

The Cairns birdwing (Ornithoptera euphorion) is the largest endemic butterfly in Australia. The males can have a wingspan of up to 12.5cm, and the females of 15cm. The impressively spiked caterpillars grow to 9cm in size, and store poison accumulated from food plants in their orange spines! These spines deter birds from attacking the caterpillars.

Jurgen commented:

“Six years ago very near our outdoor breakfast table, we planted the native rainforest pipevine¬†Aristolochia tagala¬†hoping to attract Cairns birdwing butterflies to our garden. We were rewarded this year with several fussy female Cairns birdwing butterflies laying their eggs where our healthy vines were. On many breakfast mornings over several months, we watched and filmed the different stages of caterpillar growth, mostly seeing them eating the vines voraciously. Eventually, the later caterpillar batches had almost no more green leaves and vines to eat, resorting to eating the remaining stump, almost all the way down to the ground. We had a total of 18 caterpillars and 15 made it to the chrysalis stage with two chrysalis hatching into beautiful female Cairns birdwing butterflies. Truly we witnessed nature’s living miracle happen right in front of our eyes, with every stage of growth.”