An online resource based on the award-winning nature guide

Butterflies Mating

6-10-13 mating pearl crescents 351These mating Pearl Crescent butterflies may have used size, color, shape, vein structure and/or pheromones to recognize each other. When mating, most male butterflies provide a package (spermatophore) of sperm and nutrients the female needs to produce and lay eggs. The mated female stores the spermatophore in a sac called a bursa until she’s ready to lay eggs. She fertilizes her eggs as she lays them, using the last sperm she received first. For this reason, males of some species will leave a substance that dries into a film on the female’s abdomen in an effort to keep her from mating with other males. (Thanks to Kent McFarland for butterfly i.d.)

4 responses

  1. Marie Kirn

    I love it! Thank you for all you know and do, even for knowing where to find the i.d. M

    June 10, 2013 at 12:24 pm

  2. Beautiful, Mary.

    June 10, 2013 at 12:35 pm

  3. Miriam Newman

    Yesterday evening at my house in Strafford I observed Eastern Tiger Swallowtails copulating on my deck. It was perhaps not an ideal spot — they toppled over several times and had to right themselves on the flat deck — nothing to cling to. Also, it began to sprinkle so they had to move to the edge of the deck to find shelter under some hydrangea leaves. They remained conjoined throughout and the operation did not look easy. The “underneath” butterfly (female? I couldn’t determine gender) seemed to do most of the work. Eventually one butterfly flew off but the other remained on the hydrangea for approximately another hour — exhausted? recovering? before departing.

    It was very interesting! I was surprised at how long the whole process took.

    June 11, 2013 at 11:51 am

    • Hi Miriam,
      How lucky you were to observe the whole process! Apparently butterfly copulation can last anywhere from minute up to three hours! Thanks so much for describing what you saw for me! Mary

      June 11, 2013 at 12:14 pm

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