2 Sept 2016

Plas Pilipala: our Glasswings

Laura Jones

The majority of the butterflies in Plas Pilipala are delivered to us each week from Stratford-upon-Avon Butterfly Farm and arrive as chrysalises. However, some of the butterfly species are now actually breeding in the house. One of the great successes has been the Glasswing butterfly, Greta oto, which lays its eggs on Cestrum leaves.

Spotting the leaves that have been munched on is definitely the easiest way of finding where the eggs and caterpillars are. Luckily, the butterflies will only lay their eggs on very specific plants, which we can plan for and bring in, so our whole tropical plant display isn’t about to eaten away! The Glasswing caterpillars have turned out to be very light eaters; they feast on maybe half a leaf before pupating and forming their delicate chrysalis.

If you look and compare those Glasswing pupae to some of the ones hanging in our emergence cage, you can spot that they are tiny in comparison to something like the Blue Morpho chrysalis. They’re the exquisite little things: green with gold strands that catch the light.

The butterfly itself is a showstopper; as the name suggests, its wings are transparent and when it’s flying all you can see is a blur of the white bands it sports at the very top of the wing.

For the past three weeks we haven’t had any Glasswing butterflies in our delivery of chrysalises. This means that each one you see in Plas Pilipala is a born and bred Botanic Garden butterfly.