If you’re a good butterfly gardener, your garden is filled with nectar plants. If you’re a great butterfly gardener, your garden also includes a variety of host plants, the plants that caterpillars eat. Most butterfly caterpillars are very particular, eating only plants from one family. Monarch caterpillars eat milkweed, Black Swallowtail caterpillars eat plants in the parsley family, and so on. And they’re able to do that because female butterflies carefully select the right plants and then oviposit, or lay their eggs. They do so by carefully bending the tip of their abdomen up and squeezing out those eggs one by one. Take a look…
This Zebra Longwing lays her yellow eggs in clusters at the end of passionvines, her host plant.
This Gulf Fritillary also lays on passionvine, but lays her tiny yellow eggs singly and generally on leaves.
This Queen is laying eggs on the underside of milkweed leaves. They are small and white, laid singly.
(Those yellow dots you see in this picture aren’t eggs; they’re aphids.)
The eggs and egg-laying habits of butterflies are as varied as they are. Some lay eggs individually on the undersides of leaves; others on the top sides. Some lay eggs in groups, and their caterpillars hatch and feed close together for a time. Still others stack their eggs in little towers. Eggs can be round, ovoid, or shaped like little grains of rice, and they come in red, yellow, green, white, cream, and more.
Row 1: Cloudless Sulphur eggs on cassia; Zebra Longwing eggs on passionvine; Long-Tailed Skipper eggs on bean plants.
Row 2: Polydamas Swallowtail eggs on pipevine; Io moth eggs on hackberry; Black Swallowtail eggs on parsley.
Other insects lay eggs in the garden too. Shown below are lacewing eggs on the ends of their delicate strings (left),
and ladybug eggs, always laid together in little yellow clusters (right).
What types of insect eggs have you found in your garden? Have you ever watched a butterfly ovipositing? We’d love to hear about your experiences! And don’t forget to pick up the latest issue of Birds & Blooms Magazine, where you’ll find lots of tips for bringing butterflies to your garden.