There are many different sections within the Australian Butterfly Sanctuary, each are crucial to the development and conservation of these beautiful creatures. Once you walk through the reception and gift shop you will enter the main aviary. Butterflies can fly freely throughout this area, and there is huge number of different species all around you. The main aviary can be split up into three main areas, the egg laying area, emergence cages and the nectar and eggs area. Each one of these is used within the life cycle.
The time needed to reach full maturity for a butterfly depends on the specific species and influenced by the climate conditions. Once the butterfly is mature it can begin mating. Before the mating begins, the male must attract the female. This is usually done when the male flies in circles around the female, whilst releasing pheromones.
Stage 1 of the Life Cycle
Once the mating has started, the first of the four stages begins. The female will find the plant that its particular species eats and lays its eggs on. Once she finds the plant she will decide whether or not the climate is sufficient for the eggs, and if it is suitable, she will lay them. After the eggs have been laid within the main aviary of our sanctuary, our friendly keepers will carefully cut the leave and take it to the laboratory for the next stage of its development .
Stage 2 of the Life Cycle
Once moved to the lab, our team will place the leaves inside a petri dish, where the eggs can evolve. This is where the second stage begins. The egg will hatch into the butterfly’s larval form, the caterpillar. Once the caterpillar is out of its egg, it will consume as much food as it can. This is so it can sustain itself during its transformation into a butterfly.
Whilst in the caterpillar stage, our lab team take every precaution we can to maximise the success rate of our butterflies becoming mature. In the wild it is reasonable to see a female butterfly lay around 100 eggs. If 95 of those eggs hatch, it is usual that 85 of those caterpillars are killed by birds, wasps or spiders. This is why as soon as eggs are laid within our aviary, our team take cut the leaf and take them to the lab. Within our incubation room, our lab team constantly sterilise equipment to make sure none of these predators have a chance to get in.
Stage 3 of the Life Cycle
Once the caterpillar is full grown and stops eating, it will become a pupa. Depending on the species, the pupa may be suspended under a branch, between leaves or underground. This stage can last a few weeks, a month or even longer, and is also influenced by the climate. The different climates are sometimes used to slow down or speed up the transition. Looking at the pupa, it may look uninteresting. But all of the cells that were present on the caterpillar are now evolving.
Stage 4 of the Life Cycle
The fourth and final stage of the butterfly is the adult stage. This is what most people think of when they think of butterflies. When the butterfly is big enough, it will leave it’s shell and spread its wings and fly away. Its purpose in life has now changed from eating as much as it can, to now reproducing. Once fully mature, the life cycle will repeat.
Our friendly team at the Australian Butterfly Sanctuary run tours around our park, and are full of knowledge about these beautiful creatures. If you have any questions about our park or butterflies, feel free to contact us or visit us in person