Lanta Butterfly Garden is a landscaped tropical garden showing living butterflies from all over Thailand. The exhibition with photos explains the complicated life cycle from the egg to the imago, and at our hatching area you can see some of the bizarre caterpillars eating the leaves of the different food plants.
Butterflies are, after beetles, the second largest order of insects and count more than 180 000 species. They inhabit nearly all climates on earth, from tropical rain forests to dry deserts, and from the arctic tundra to high mountain meadows, with an altitude of 6000 metres. Their sizes vary from a few millimetres to a wing span of 27 cm and a wing area exceeding that of a pigeon.
The classification of butterflies is quite complicated and disputed even among specialists. A distinction is often made between the true butterflies and the moths, whereby the true butterflies (Papilionoidea) together with the closely related scippers (Hesperioidea) count for only about 10%. Further 20 super families are necessary, to classify the moths. The largest among them are the Underwings, Geometers and the Pyraloid moths.
The lives of butterflies are quite short. While the males of some micro moth species die already after a few hours, some of the large Saturnidae live approx. 5 days. The butterflies of this family do not have organs for food intake and digesting and live on the fat reserves, they put on during the larva stage. Most species however, live several weeks some of those that hibernate even a few months.
They nourish predominantly on nectar that they suck with a 2 - 5 cm long proboscis, which consists of a double pipe, from flowers with a long calyx, for which they secure the pollination in return.
The name of the order of butterflies - Lepidoptera - is derived from the Greek words “lepidos” for scale and “pteron” for wing, and refers to the minute scales which cover the wings like the tiles of a roof. They are grown as extremely thin chitin lamellas, visible only under the microscope. Stored pigments, air inclusions, the microstructure of the scales, and different adjustment of the individual scales refract the light, and create the characteristic colours.
As many other insects, the butterflies pass through various stages during their life cycle, and have a totally different appearance in each stage.Their so-called complete metamorphosis consists of egg, caterpillar, pupa (chrysalis), and adult butterfly (imago). After mating, the females fix the usually hard-shelled eggs to leaves or branches of the food plant, either individually or in heaps. The number of eggs varies from several dozens to many thousands, depending on the species, and can even differ within one species, depending on the season. The egg size is 0.5 - 2.5 mm, and its form is either spherical or ovate.
Most caterpillars slip after a few days. In temperate regions, some go through a diapause stage before slipping, and eat first the remainder of their own eggshell. Only after that is consumed, they begin to eat at the host plant, for which they are equipped with strong mouth tools, consisting of an upper lip, mandibles, and a lower lip. While some caterpillars feed on very different plants, most are monophag and feed only on one special food plant or plant family.
While the chrysalis of most true butterflies is anchored to a branch, a trunk, or the underside of a leaf by a silken pad spun by the caterpillar, the pupae of the moths are carefully hidden. Some caterpillars dig themselves into loose soil, crawl under a stone, or spin roomy cocoons with threads from a gland, located at the spinnerets behind the mandibles of the caterpillar. These cocoons are attached to tree branches, or positioned in hollows of the bark of the tree where the caterpillar developed.
When the pupa stadium ends, the skin bursts at the head and the butterfly lifts itself out, looking for a firm support for its legs. By pumping air and blood to the vein network of the wings these become unfolded in approximately 20 - 30 minutes. However, it takes about 2 hours before they are hardened and the butterfly can fly.
Butterfly Garden is located
in the mountains above Lanta Long
Beach opposite Elephant Trekking
on Lanta Island in Krabi Province. It is open daily from 09:00
to 17:00. Entrance fee is 150 Baht per person.