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The metamorphosis of a butterfly is a transformation that, in nature, happens continuously, without our distracted eyes noticing it. But being able to observe it closely, in each of its phases, is a rather rare event.

The French photographer Veronique Brosseau Matossy (her blog here), specializing in insect macros, has documented the various steps of the birth of a Vanessa del cardo (Vanessa cardui) a moth spread on all continents.

The eggs of this insect close to 3-5 days after laying and the caterpillar takes little more than a week to turn into a chrysalis. The latter will need a similar period of time - from 7 to 11 days - to turn into a butterfly. In this photographic sequence we will see just the final phase of the metamorphosis (in the shot, the butterfly begins to emerge from the chrysalis).

Just before the flicker - this is the name of the insect's exit from its nymphal shell - the chrysalis becomes transparent and thins. This protective shell, which protects the insect from evaporation during its metamorphosis, is the result of a previous transformation undergone by the caterpillar.

Once out of the egg that housed it, the caterpillar searches for a plant to attach to and remains welded to it thanks to a canvas structure that it secretes by itself. Then his most external cuticle splits to let the pupa (or chrysalis) emerge. This old coating will then be abandoned.

Here instead we see the breaking of the pupa envelope: in the photo, the leakage of the antennas. The insect is pushing away the protective coating with the legs.

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It is said that the chrysalises remain motionless waiting to finally get rid of their shell and fly. Those of Vanessa, for example, react vigorously when touched: a strategy to ward off predators that take advantage of this phase when the insect is more defenseless.

The first wing is finally free. As soon as it comes out of the chrysalis, the butterfly has moist and crumpled wings, but pumping hemolymph - the equivalent of blood for insects - in the winged ribs the wings stretch out within a few hours.

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While waiting for the wings to unfold completely the butterfly is not yet able to fly. It is at this time that he is most vulnerable to attack by predators. A good defensive tactic is to escape from the chrysalis at dawn, when most of its enemies - day or night - rest.

It is important that before it hardens, the butterfly's wings expand quite quickly: otherwise the moth could have problems getting up in the air. And in life he will have to fly a lot, this butterfly can also travel 1600 kilometers during his migrations. In winter it stays in the warmer areas such as tropical strips or southern European countries, while in spring it moves to the cooler areas of central Europe.

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Once out of its wrapper the butterfly emits from the abdomen a dark liquid called meconium, expelling the waste substances accumulated during the pupal stage.

Finally free, the Vanessa del Cardo shows its wings in all their splendor. This insect takes its name from one of the plants on which the caterpillars love to climb to start the metamorphosis into a chrysalis. Beyond the thistle the lepidopterans of the species appreciate artichoke plants, tomatoes, aubergines, tobacco and other garden products.

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While waiting for the wings to dry, the moth takes advantage of it to test the proboscis - or, more properly, "spiritromba" - an extensible appendix of the buccal apparatus that is used to suck the nectar of flowers (look at it in a microscope picture ).

The taste receptors of this butterfly are found "under the feet". The ends of the moth's legs have a group of receptors that serve to identify the right plant from which to stock up on nectar. The antennas, on the other hand, end with small white spots dedicated to the perception of odors and the maintenance of balance.

After this complicated transformation to the butterfly there remain about two weeks of life, which will spend busy in the most pleasant activities: eating, reproducing, traveling. The latter more than a delight is a vital necessity: the insect does not resist cold climates and needs solar heat to move. Otherwise, he becomes incapable of flying and soon ends up in the clutches of some predator.

Finally, here is the butterfly ready to take flight and enjoy its fleeting existence. The entire process of leaving the chrysalis lasted, in our case, just 30 seconds. The photographer waited patiently for three and a half hours for the moth to peek out.

You might also like: Lepidoptera: an oasis for butterflies in Milan From the seed to the flower: the time-lapse video The incredible journey of the monarch butterflies Pungent photos: a bee caught in the fact Macrocosm. Face to face with insects. The metamorphosis of a butterfly is a transformation that, in nature, happens continuously, without our distracted eyes noticing it. But being able to observe it closely, in each of its phases, is a rather rare event.
The French photographer Veronique Brosseau Matossy (her blog here), specializing in insect macros, has documented the various steps of the birth of a Vanessa del cardo (Vanessa cardui) a moth spread on all continents.
The eggs of this insect close to 3-5 days after laying and the caterpillar takes little more than a week to turn into a chrysalis. The latter will need a similar period of time - from 7 to 11 days - to turn into a butterfly. In this photographic sequence we will see just the final phase of the metamorphosis (in the shot, the butterfly begins to emerge from the chrysalis).