Which butterfly looks poisonous, but is not

10 caterpillars and what becomes of them

From which caterpillar what later develops is hardly apparent, especially for laypeople. In Germany alone there are around 3,700 different species of butterflies (Lepidoptera). In addition to their beauty, the insects are particularly fascinating because of the various stages of development they go through. We have summarized the most common caterpillars for you and show you which butterflies they turn into.

Swallowtail (Papilio machaon)

The swallowtail is one of the most beautiful butterflies in Europe. In addition, with a wingspan of almost eight centimeters, it is one of the largest butterflies in Central Europe. For a few years the swallowtail was considered endangered because its population was in decline. In the meantime, however, the population has recovered, which is not least due to the fact that the use of pesticides and pesticides in public spaces and also in domestic gardens is decreasing. In 2006 it was even named "Butterfly of the Year".

Fortunately, the butterfly can be found in great numbers again in natural gardens. With a large variety of plants you can even lure the swallowtail into the garden: it particularly likes to feed on buddleia, while it prefers to lay its eggs on crops such as fennel or carrots. Shortly before the swallowtail caterpillars turn into butterflies, they are particularly magnificent and are strikingly green in color and striped black and red.

Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui)

The well-proven caterpillar (left) turns out to be a pretty painted lady (right)

The painted lady belongs to the noble butterfly family (Nymphalidae) and has a life expectancy of around one year. In the home garden you can watch it fluttering from summer flower to summer flower from April to September.

Peacock butterfly (Aglais io)

Peacock butterfly: as inconspicuous as the caterpillar (left), as spectacular as the butterfly (right)

The black caterpillars with the small white dots can often be seen on the leaves of nettles, which they prefer to eat. As a finished butterfly, the magnificent peacock butterfly likes to fly to dandelions in spring, while in summer it feeds on blooming clover, buddleia or thistles. The "eyes" on its wings scare off predators such as birds. The butterfly is very widespread in Germany. Up to three generations hatch each year.

Little Fox (Aglais urticae)

The little fox is a great sight both in the caterpillar stage (left) and as a butterfly (right)

Like the peacock butterfly, the small fox belongs to the genus Aglais. Its main source of food is also nettles, which is why it is also known colloquially as the nettle butterfly. The caterpillar needs a month or more until the pupa develops into a butterfly, but only two weeks pass. In the garden you can watch the little fox from March to October. There he feasts on a wide variety of flowering plants.

Cabbage white butterfly

As a caterpillar (left), the cabbage white butterfly is not exactly a welcome guest in the vegetable patch, but as a butterfly (right) it is pleasing to the eye

Opinions are divided on the cabbage white butterfly: In the caterpillar stage, it can cause great damage in the vegetable patch, while later, as a butterfly, it is completely harmless and also very pretty. There are two species in our gardens, the large cabbage white butterfly (Pieris brassicae) and the small cabbage white butterfly (Pieris rapae). Cabbage white butterflies are the most common butterflies in all of Central Europe. Visually, the two species are very similar - both as a caterpillar and as a butterfly. In the garden you will find the cabbage white butterfly from early spring to autumn mostly near nectar-rich plants such as thistles or butterfly lilacs.

European common blue (Polyommatus icarus)

Well camouflaged in green is the caterpillar (left) of the Restharrow Bluebell. The butterfly (right), on the other hand, is a very delicate and filigree creature

As the name suggests, the wing color of the Hauchechel bluish is blue - but only in the male insects. The females only have a faint blue tinge and are predominantly dark brown in color. The butterflies like to feed on horn clover or thyme and love blooming wildflower meadows. The forage plants of the caterpillars belong exclusively to the butterflies, a subfamily of legumes.

Brimstone butterfly

The fresh yellow-green color adorns both the caterpillar (left) and the finished lemon butterfly (right)

The lemon butterfly is one of the first butterflies of the year and appears in some places as early as February. The wings of the males are colored intensely yellow, while those of the females play more into the greenish-white. The wingspan of lemon moths is a maximum of 55 millimeters, so the insects are quite small. As for their diet, the lemon moth caterpillars have specialized in the buckthorn. In addition, only a few plants from the buckthorn family serve as fodder plants. The lifespan of the brimstone butterfly is - for butterflies - very long: they can live up to 13 months.

Aurora butterfly (Anthocharis cardamines)

The upper side of the wing of the aurora butterfly differs in a striking way from the lower side of the wing (right). The caterpillar (left) is bright green, but its color can also be more towards blue

Aurora butterflies feed on caterpillars as well as butterflies on meadowfoam and garlic mustard. In addition, you can occasionally see them on the night violet or the silver leaf. Either way, all of their food sources are among the spring bloomers, which also explains why the attractive moths can only be found in the garden in spring, from April to June.

Gooseberry spider (Abraxas grossulariata)

The caterpillar (left) and the later butterfly (right) of the gooseberry sprout are somewhat similar

Alluvial forests, the natural habitats of the gooseberry moth, are becoming less and less common in Germany, so that the butterfly is now on the red list. In addition, monocultures and intensive forestry make things difficult for him. The gooseberry caterpillars eat - in addition to the gooseberries - also currants, on which they also lay their eggs. The nocturnal insect is also called "harlequin" because of its striking wing color. Anyone who wants to offer the gooseberry sprout a safe haven in the garden must rigorously refrain from using pesticides.

Middle Wine Hawk (Deilephila elpenor)

The middle wine hawk looks very exotic both as a caterpillar (left) and as a butterfly

Instead of grapevines, you will find the caterpillars of the middle wine hawk on flowering fuchsia bushes, their first choice on the menu. The distinctive eye markings with which the caterpillars are equipped on their backs protect the insects from predators. Medium-sized wine enthusiasts become active when dusk falls, and only shortly before they pupate can you also meet them in the garden during the day. The finished moths can then be observed in the garden from June to August. They especially like to romp around near water. However, they only feel comfortable in gardens if there is a large variety of plants and if they are cultivated using purely organic methods.