In pictures: beautiful butterfly eggs

By Australian Geographic 31 January 2020
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Function and form beget art in a world where life is less than half a millimetre wide.

You’ve probably seen tiny specks like these on leaves or twigs without realising what they are or appreciating their true beauty.

These butterfly eggs were collected and prepared by Dr Ross Field, former
Museums Victoria head of natural sciences, and photographed by Dr Ken Walker, senior curator and Simon Hinkley, senior collection manager, both in entomology at Museums Victoria.

At the time, Ken was using cutting-edge camera gear and software technology to photograph exotic pest species for Australian customs and turned his lens to Ross’s butterfly project.

Female Cotton Harlequin Bug (Tectocoris diophthalmus) guarding her eggs on Coastal Hibiscus. Fingal Heads. New South Wales. Australia. Related: The wacky, wild world of Australian insect eggs

Back then, photographing tiny biological features was the domain of expensive, cumbersome electron microscopes that can only be operated by highly skilled technicians.

Ken was a pioneer in Australia of using light microscopes, like you’d find in any lab, to photograph very small specimens and applying montaging software to bring them to life in full-colour 3D imagery.

When he applied the technology to Ross’s butterfly eggs, both men were stunned by what they saw. This technology is now used more widely in biology than electron micrographs because it produces images in full
colour, full focus and glorious detail at a fraction of the cost.

Why do butterfly eggs need to be so elaborately structured and diverse? As yet, no-one knows.

All images by Museums Victoria.