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Butterflies

Thanks to a wealth of wild flowers, there are many beautiful butterfly species that thrive throughout Lebanon. Particularly on a sunny day in the spring, or early summer, patches of flowers can be surrounded with these most delicate of insects. Each species has its own particular requirements, some being specific to one plant as food for their caterpillars. The mosaic of habitats, that change as you go up from the coast to the hills and then into the mountains, mean that Lebanon has a long list of native species.

Follow the link to see a selection of Lebanon’s commoner species:

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A butterfly who’s who
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In early spring a walk in the hills can reveal, what look like silk webs spun along the ground, – not containing spiders but caterpillars. The so called “worms of the spring.” Eggs laid by the adult butterflies hatch into caterpillars which spread out into the vegetation during the day to feed and then return at night to the safety and warmth of the “nest.” To turn into flying butterflies the caterpillars need to go through the process known as metamorphosis.

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Metamorphosis

Much of a butterfly’s life is spent without wings in the larval stage known as a caterpillar. The transformation of a larval caterpillar into an adult butterfly with wings is called metamorphosis. Usually female butterflies lay their eggs on plants. Some species are very particular about the type of plant they lay their eggs on. After hatching from the egg, the caterpillar spends most of its time eating and growing. When it reaches the right size, it begins the first major step in metamorphosis, called pupation. The caterpillar usually attaches itself to a solid object and forms a case around itself called a cocoon. The butterfly is now called a pupa, and within the cocoon wings, antennae, and legs are formed. Some butterflies hang upside down and form a hard casing called a “chrysalis”. The chrysalis of some species of butterfly can be as beautiful and striking as the butterfly itself.

The process of pupation can last for a number of weeks. When the transformation of the pupa within the cocoon or chrysalis is complete, the adult butterfly breaks out of its case and often waits for a few hours to dry its wings and warm up before it begins to fly. The adult butterfly then flies from flower to flower feeding on nectar. Some even use their ability to fly to migrate great distances, similar to the migration of birds. Mating takes place at different times of year for different species, and the transformation of egg to caterpillar, to pupae, to adult butterfly begins again.

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