Blog

Butterfly lifespan study at the Montreal Insectarium

Heliconius charithonia can live for several months thanks to their ability to assimilate the proteins found in flower pollen.
Credit: Thierry Boislard
Heliconius charithonia can live for several months thanks to their ability to assimilate the proteins found in flower pollen.
  • Heliconius charithonia can live for several months thanks to their ability to assimilate the proteins found in flower pollen.
  • The photos taken as part of this project will enable us to assess both lifespan and other interesting data, like food preferences.
  • The photos taken as part of this project will enable us to study certain behaviors of the tagged butterflies – breeding, for example.
Butterfly lifespan study at the Montreal Insectarium

Would you like to contribute to documenting the lifespan of the butterflies in the Great Vivarium and, ultimately, to improving their well-being? That’s now possible as part of a research project you can be part of on your next visit.

How long do the butterflies at the Insectarium de Montréal live?

Have you ever wondered how long a butterfly lives? First, the answer can vary significantly from one species to the next – which is no surprise, since there would seem to be over 180,000 species on Earth! Once they emerge from their chrysalises, some butterflies live no more than a few days, just enough time to reproduce and lay the eggs that will guarantee the next generation of caterpillars. Other species, like the zebra longwing (Heliconius charithonia), can live upwards of 100 days. Of course, a number of factors such as predation, competition for resources and unfavorable environmental conditions can reduce a butterfly’s lifespan in the wild. So what’s the lifespan of a butterfly in captivity, where it’s protected from predators and where environmental factors can be controlled?

Numbered butterflies in the Great Vivarium

The Great Vivarium is an immersive greenhouse where visitors at all times can observe hundreds of butterflies fluttering around them. Our team works very hard at providing the resident butterflies with the best possible living conditions. Temperature and humidity are both high, as they are in the tropics. Plants are varied and regularly changed, to ensure that there are flowers rich in nectar and pollen. Every day, fresh fruit is laid out on feeders, and troughs are filled with artificial nectar that serves as a supplement to the flowers. But is all this care reflected in an increased lifespan for our butterflies? To find out, our entomologists use little stickers that they place on butterflies’ wings. Those stickers are very light, in no case affect their flight, and bear a unique number. This code makes it possible to individually recognize the marked butterflies and to follow them throughout their lives. Every subsequent observation, documented with a photo, will allow us to determine their lifespan, the evolution of their condition and certain aspects of their behavior.

Help the Insectarium!

You too can participate in this study the next time you visit the Insectarium. You just have to do what our entomologists do: take pictures of the labeled butterflies you see, making sure that the code is clearly legible. Next, ask one of our guides for a QR code that allows you to quickly upload your observations to our database. Those valuable photos will enable us to measure the average lifespan of the butterflies in the Great Vivarium and to carry on maintaining their well-being at the highest level.

The Great Vivarium as a giant laboratory

The pictures of labeled specimens will allow our scientists to determine the lifespan of each species in the Great Vivarium. It’ll be possible to compare the data not just with those gathered in the wild but with the data of other butterfly aviaries carrying out the same type of studies. But that’s not all, because for every photo, it will also be possible to assess the state of the wings, activity, and dietary preferences, and to glean a lot of other information that will help us better understand our butterflies.

This project is one more in a series of studies conducted in the Great Vivarium since it opened in 2022. To this point, scientists have focused on among other things the times that butterflies eat, their behavior during the eclipse and their favorite foods.

Subscribe to Space for Life communications to receive our monthly newsletter, relevant information on events taking place in our five museums, as well as tips straight from our experts.
Subscribe to the Space for life newsletter

Share this page

Follow us!

Subscribe to receive by email:
2 Comment(s)
lyly's picture
lyly

Participating in a research project Pokerogue to document the life cycles of butterflies in The Great Vivarium is not only an exciting experience but also a valuable opportunity to contribute to improving health and well-being. their happiness.

Laura Woods's picture
Laura Woods

I appreciate these initiatives, They not only educate and engage the public but also provide essential Buckshot Roulette data for improving butterfly conservation strategies and maintaining their well-being in captivity.

Add new comment
Anonymous's picture