Wednesday, April 15

Hanging Up Butterflies

15th April
Last week we hung up the swallowtail pupae, they had been in the fridge since arriving by post in January, we wanted to film the butterflies emerging, but first we needed to get them into their launching position

In the wild, pumped up on a diet of fluffy fennel tops, the swallowtail caterpillar finally stops eating and looks for somewhere to pupate. He wanders around in the undergrowth until he finds a woody stem to climb up. Once in place, he spits out some thread, sticks it to the stem and makes a loop which he ducks his head under, held by this safety harness he hangs on the twig until he's ready to emerge.

We emulated this marvel of nature with superglue and dental floss. A series of forked twigs were lined up, each stuck in a flowerpot and ballasted with clay - we spent two evenings hanging the sleeping pupae.

The butterflies kept emerging when we weren’t looking so we put a 24-hour watch on them, cameras at the ready. During my watch and becoming increasingly cold and numb and bored one of the pupae twitched, I jumped and shrieked and everyone ran in to see what was happening – nothing - a Braxton Hicks contraction, a false alarm. The butterfly emereged 4 hours later - and we finally managed to record it .


  1. "hanging the sleeping pupae"

    I envision decorating a tiny, themed Christmas tree!

    Congrats on getting it on film.

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  3. that would be a wonderful sight, I'm sure! An ugly cocoon transforming into a beautiful butterfly!

  4. If you film something funny, like this false alarm Braxton Hicks thing, and the mother-be-to sees the funny side and you all then have a good laugh about it, maybe you could send in the video to You've Been Framed!

  5. You hung the pupae yourselves? Not very authentic, I must say, does this sort of stage management happen in all nature documentaries?

  6. Xl - sweet image

    Roshni - it is a great sight, and amazing to think what has been happening in the pupae

    Gadj - or Animals do the Funniest Things

    Gorilla - There are key moments you'd never get in the wild - they often show how special shots are achieved in the 'making of' bit that goes with a lot of Nat Hist docs these days.

  7. I love all the inventive bits!
    Superglue and floss. I'll be paying more attention to detail when I next watch a nature programme.

  8. You are the MacGyver of nature films, Lulu. I salute you!

  9. All you need is sticky back plastic and you can be a new Blue Peter presenter. Pesky things caterpillars, never turn into a butterfly when you want them to.

  10. Wow you sure need to have a lot of patience to make Nature films.

    Nothing gets your butterfly fluttering like a well hung pupae.

  11. Oh for a woody stem and a chance to pupate, again.

    I wonder if you were paid for the pupae watch. What would be an appropriate hourly rate.

    With your every post my anticipation for this film grows.

  12. are y'all filming a behind the scenes featurette, sugar? xoxo

  13. Scarlet - you'd be amazed at how some shots are achieved. Some people do extremely naughty things (not us obviously)

    Kat - and Lulu MacGyver salutes you Madame Rockette

  14. Blogger Lulu LaBonne said...

    Madame DeFarge - I've alwaays wanted to be a Blue Peter presenter. We did a thing with them last year and I got to meet Andy - I was totally starstruck
    I have a Blue Peter Badge

    Mr Coppens - who doesn't appreciate a well hung pupae.

    KSV - Oh for a woody stem and a chance to pupate, again. It's Cinderella isn't it?
    pay per hour hahahahaha... *collapses in hysterics*

  15. Waxed floss? I hope it wasn't flavoured...that seems like it would be an evil trick - butterflies emerge all minty fresh!

  16. I can just imagine you sitting there, head drooping, willing something to happen, almost asleep then - hey presto - the twitch, the shriek and everyone running -and then the groans.

  17. Deirdre - no not waxed or flavoured - freshly picked from our very own floss trees.

    Frenchie - good to see you.
    I jumped so hard I nearly upset the set.

  18. Savannah - we're trying to film a 'behind the scenes' but when all the stuff's happening were too busy...


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