Beauty in Miniature

Find beauty in the small things…

~author unknown

It is the time of year when I turn my attention to caterpillars (BugFest is approaching). So, I am always glancing at shrubs and trees that I know are host plants to see what might be happening. There is a small Black Cherry tree out back and it has been a hot spot for various critters this summer. This morning I saw several leaves that looked like this…

Red-spotted Purple egg on cherry leaf

Red-spotted Purple egg on Black Cherry leaf (click photos to enlarge)

A tiny white blob on the tip of several leaves. This is a sure sign of activity by a female Red-spotted Purple Butterfly (Limenitis arthemis astyanax). Why they lay on the leaf tip is unknown to me, but it sure makes them easier to find than the eggs of many other species.

Red-spotted Purple egg up close

Red-spotted Purple egg up close (a strand of spider silk has caught on the egg as well)

I took a few images with my super macro lens (Canon MP-E 65mm) and you can see the delicate patterning on the egg surface (too bad it is such a shallow depth of field). It is sculptured with small hexagons with spikes arising from the corners. The purpose of this sculpturing may be to increase the surface area of the egg to facilitate the exchange of gases for the developing embryo. Or it may be to make people like me happy when we bother to look closely.

rsp egg up close

Even closer

An even closer look shows some additional structure in one of the hexagons that probably corresponds to the top of the egg. Look just above and to the right where the spider silk is attached and you may see one hexagon that has a small series of bumps in it. This may be the perforations known as micropyles, where sperm enters the egg. These serve as gas exchange areas as well. As quoted in a great natural history book entitled, Butterflies and Day-flying Moths of Great Britain and Europe

The cut-glass delicacy of these eggs, described by Edwin Newman more than a century ago as “a thousand times more delicate and fine than any human hand could execute”, is truly one of nature’s marvels.

4 thoughts on “Beauty in Miniature

  1. Dynamite photos…we are thinking alike…late August is my time to search for caterpillars. I’m in the middle of writing a piece right now. Unfortunately, I don’t have any cool close-ups like these!

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