The lemongrass butterfly is one of the first to flutter in the spring, and often suffers from this, dying when the thaw is replaced by a new cold snap – after it, bright yellow butterflies can be seen on the snow. They are found not only in spring, but also in summer and autumn. They are distinguished by their bright coloration, as well as wings that are slightly cut off at both edges.
Origin of the species and description
Lemongrass belongs to the family of whites (Pieridae). It also includes pests such as cabbage and turnip, but lemongrass themselves are not considered pests, since their caterpillars feed mainly on buckthorn. That is why they have another name – buckthorn. Whites belong to the Lepidoptera order. As evidenced by the findings of paleoanthologists, the first representatives of the detachment inhabited the planet as early as the beginning of the Jurassic period – the age of the oldest remains found is approximately 190 million years.
Video: Lemon Butterfly
By the Cretaceous period, when flowering plants spread more and more around the planet, Lepidoptera also flourished. They acquired a well-developed mouth apparatus, their wings also developed more strongly. At the same time, a long proboscis was formed, designed to suck out nectar. There were more and more species of Lepidoptera, more and more large ones appeared, the length of their life in the form of adults increased – they reached a real flowering. Although the diversity of this order is also striking in our time, it contains many dissimilar species.
Interesting fact: Butterflies change four forms during their life: first an egg, then a larva, a chrysalis and, finally, an adult butterfly with wings. All these forms are strikingly different from each other, and imago is the name of the latter.
Lepidoptera rapidly evolved along with flowering plants. By the Paleogene, most of the modern families, including whites, had finally formed. By the same time, the appearance of modern lemongrass belongs. Gradually, new types of them continued to appear, and this process is still not completed.
The genus Lemongrass includes from 10 to 14 species – some researchers have not yet come to a consensus on the exact classification. The difference between the species is mainly expressed in size and color intensity. Further, in all cases, unless otherwise indicated, we will talk about lemongrass ordinary, described by Carl Linnaeus in the fundamental work “The System of Nature”, which appeared in 1758.
Some more of the most famous and common species can be distinguished:
- cleopatra, living in the Mediterranean;
- aminta, the largest – its wingspan reaches 80 mm, found in Southeast Asia;
- aspasia – Far Eastern butterflies, on the contrary, small (30 mm) and very brightly colored.
Appearance and Features
In adult form, it has elongated front wings and rounded hind wings – both have a pointed end . The hind wings are slightly longer and can reach 35 mm. The color allows lemongrass to disguise itself well: if they fold their wings while sitting on a tree or shrub, then it is difficult for predators to notice them from afar.
Females and males differ primarily in the color of the wings: in males they are bright yellow, which is why the name of these butterflies came from, and in females they are white with a green tint. There is a small orange spot in the middle of the wings.
They have compound eyes and a round head, as well as a very long proboscis, with which they can extract nectar even from very complex flowers. There are three pairs of walking legs, with their help lemongrass move along the surface of the plant. There are four pairs of wings.
Sizes vary greatly depending on the species, usually with a wingspan of around 55 mm. In representatives of the largest species, it can reach 80 mm, while in small lemongrass it is only 30 mm. The caterpillars do not stand out outwardly: they are green to match the foliage, they are covered with small black dots.
An interesting fact: If it is not very hot, then as soon as the sun hides behind the clouds, the lemongrass tends to land on the nearest flower or tree – it is very difficult for her to fly without direct sunlight, since a high temperature must be maintained in order to fly.
Where does the lemongrass butterfly live?
The habitat is very wide, it includes:
- most of Europe;
- Middle East;
- Far East;
- North Africa;
- Southeast Asia;
- Canary Islands;
- Madeira Island.
These butterflies are absent in the deserts, steppes of Ciscaucasia, beyond the Arctic Circle, absent they are also on the island of Crete. In Russia, they are very widespread, they can be found from Kaliningrad to Vladivostok. Able to live in harsh natural conditions, almost to the very Arctic Circle.
First of all, their range is determined by the distribution of buckthorn as the main source of food for caterpillars, although they are also capable of eating other plants. If the common lemongrass is widespread, then other species can live in a very limited area, there are several endemics that live in the Canary Islands and Madeira.
It is curious that these butterflies do not live in the fields, preferring thickets of shrubs, various gardens, parks, edges and woodlands – the main areas where they can be found, since lemongrass also does not settle in a dense forest. They also live in the mountains, but not too high – they are no longer above 2,500 meters above sea level. If necessary, they can fly over long distances in order to find the most convenient area for living.
Now you know where the yellow, bright butterfly lives. Now let's see what the lemongrass butterfly eats?
What does the lemongrass butterfly eat?
In the form of adults – nectar.
Among the plants whose nectar attracts lemongrass:
Field flowers prevail among preferences, although garden lemongrass nectar is also drunk. Thanks to a long proboscis, they can even feed on nectar that is inaccessible to almost all other butterflies – for example, the same primrose. For many spring plants, it is vital that they are pollinated by lemongrass, because there are almost no other butterflies at this time. The larva feeds on buckthorn, such as laxative buckthorn, joster and others.
They devour the leaf from the middle to the edge in a few days, growing rapidly, and by the time they get to the outer side of the leaf, the molt is already over. They do not cause much harm to buckthorn, and for cultivated plants they are almost harmless at all, with a few exceptions: caterpillars can feed on the foliage of plants such as cabbage, rutabaga, turnip, horseradish, radish or turnip. But cases when they harm plantings are very rare, since lemongrass eggs are usually laid in thickets and forest edges.
An interesting fact: Lemongrass chooses which flower to sit on not by the smell they emit, but by color. Most of all, these butterflies are attracted by blue and red flowers.
Character and lifestyle features
They are active during the day and fly only when it is sunny. They love warm weather very much, and in the spring, if it is cool, they often freeze for a long time, folding their wings at a right angle and trying to catch as many sun rays as possible – first they expose one side to them, and then the other. As soon as evening comes and it becomes not so light, they begin to look for a convenient place to spend the night – usually thickets of bushes serve for this. They sit on a branch in the depths of the thickets and, having folded their wings, become almost indistinguishable from the surrounding greenery.
Unlike most other butterflies, which do not spend much time in flight due to the high energy expenditure on it, lemongrass is very hardy and can fly most of the day, covering long distances. At the same time, they are able to climb to great heights. Since they live by the standards of butterflies for a long time, they need to save their vitality – therefore, if conditions become less favorable, for example, rainy weather sets in and it gets colder, then even in the middle of summer they may begin diapause. When it gets warm again, lemongrass wakes up.
Interesting fact: Diapause is a period when the butterfly's metabolism becomes much slower, it stops moving and becomes much more resistant to external influences.
Schisandra are among the first to appear – in warm regions starting in March. But these are already butterflies living for the second year, they lay eggs in the spring, after which they die. Young individuals appear at the beginning of summer, and in the middle of autumn they go to spend the winter to “thaw out” in the spring. That is, the life expectancy of lemongrass in the form of adults is about nine months – for diurnal butterflies, this is quite a lot, and in Europe they even hold the record for longevity.
For the winter, they hide deeper in the thickets. They are not afraid of frosts: the increased retention of glycerol and polypeptides allows them to remain alive in hibernation even at an air temperature of -40 ° C, especially since in shelter, especially if it is under snow, it is usually much warmer. On the contrary, thaws are dangerous for them: if they wake up, they spend a lot of energy on flights, and since there are no flowers yet, they cannot renew its supply. With a sharp cold snap, they simply do not have time to find a new shelter and fall into hibernation again – and they die.
Social structure and reproduction
They live alone, and only during the mating season they fly in pairs. It falls in the spring, and the initiative belongs to the males, who perform a simple mating ritual: when they meet a suitable female, they fly after her at a short distance for some time. Then the male and female descend on the bush and mate.
After that, the female looks for a place near the buckthorn shoots so that the larvae have enough food, and lays eggs, one or two for each leaf, up to a hundred in total. They are held in place with a sticky secret. A week or two eggs ripen, and by the beginning of summer a larva appears. After the appearance, it begins to absorb the leaf – in the form of a caterpillar, lemongrass is very gluttonous and eats almost all the time, growing from 1.5 to 35 mm. The time it takes to grow depends on the weather – the warmer and drier it is, the faster the caterpillar will reach the desired size and go through all the molts. It usually takes 3-5 weeks.
Then she pupates. The residence time in the form of a chrysalis depends on the climate and is 10-20 days – the warmer, the faster the butterfly will appear. Having got out of the cocoon, she spends a little time just hovering to spread her wings and let them get stronger, and then she can fly freely – the individual immediately appears adult and fully adapted to life. In total, all stages of development take from 40 to 60 days, and an adult butterfly lives another 270 days, although it spends a significant part of this time in hibernation.
Natural enemies of lemongrass butterflies
There are a lot of them: the danger threatens lemongrass at any stage of development, because there are lovers to feast on them in any form. It is easiest for adult butterflies, since predators still need to catch them, there are no such problems with other forms.
Among the enemies of lemongrass:
- many other insects.
Butterfly-eating predators are more than enough, but their most terrible enemies are birds. They most often eat caterpillars, because they are nutritious prey that do not need to be hunted. In total, birds destroy an average of about a quarter of the caterpillars. Some birds also attack adults – most often lying in wait for them when they are resting or drinking nectar.
For them, the easiest way is to hit the victim with a beak when she sat down and kill, then separate the wings from her and eat the torso. Although some are dexterous enough to grab butterflies on the fly, for example, swallows do just that. But for adults, birds and predators in general are not so dangerous – they can fly away, besides, the protective color helps, because of which it is difficult to notice them when they are resting. It is much more difficult for caterpillars: they are hunted by a much larger number of predators, including small ones that are too tough for adult butterflies – and they are not able to either fly away or escape. In addition, although caterpillars also have a protective color, they are given out by eaten leaves.
Ants love caterpillars, killing them with the help of coordinated actions of large groups and then dragging them to their anthills. Parasitic wasps can lay their eggs right in living caterpillars. The larvae emerging from them then devour the caterpillar for a long time right alive. Sometimes she dies because of this, not having time to become a chrysalis, but even when she manages to live up to this, parasites then get out of the chrysalis, and not a butterfly at all. In addition, butterflies are also susceptible to bacteria, viruses and fungi, and small mites can parasitize them.
Population and species status
Although the caterpillars are quite picky about food, the plants they prefer are widespread, so nothing threatens lemongrass. Of course, human activity could not but affect them – the area occupied by buckthorn bushes has noticeably decreased in the last century, and pesticides are also actively used – but the reduction in the number of butterflies is not yet critical.
There are still a lot of lemongrass, but this applies to the entire planet, and in some of its areas, there is still a strong decline in the population of these butterflies. So, in the Netherlands, the issue of recognizing them as an endangered species at the local level and appropriate protection was raised. But the genus as a whole has not been given the status of protected – a wide range allows you not to worry about its survival. There are many lemon groves in Russia, they can be found in most of the country. Although some species have a much narrower range and smaller population, and sooner or later they may be threatened with extinction.
This primarily concerns two species – endemic to the Canary Islands, Gonepteryx cleobule and palmae. The latter inhabit exclusively the island of Palma. Another species, Gonepteryx maderensis, endemic to the island of Madeira, is under protection, as the population of these butterflies has declined greatly in recent decades. In addition, in the corners of our planet that are far from civilization, species of lemongrass that have not yet been described due to their rarity can also live.
Lemon grasses are harmless butterflies, one of the first to fly in spring and play an important role in pollination of spring flowers. They are not as widespread as urticaria, but they are also common, and live in most of Russia. The bright yellow butterfly Lemongrass is one of the decorations of the warm season.