Lacewing Butterfly

Lacewing butterflies are recognized by their translucent, prismatic wings and are best known for their silk production. They were nearly driven extinct due to the silk trade until a better method for extracting silk from their cocoons was invented, using a process which did not require killing the butterfly while still inside. Now the butterflies are making a comeback, much to the appreciation of farmers who recognize the butterfly as an important predator for several species of crop-eating beetles.

Basic Information

Growth Rate & Stages

Eggs

Lacewing Butterflies lay their eggs inside gaps in a tree's bark, typically caused by healthy bark sloughing, to provide basic protections from the elements until the eggs are ready to hatch. Eggs take approximately one week to hatch.  

Larva / Caterpillars

The caterpillars of the Lacewing Butterfly are brightly striped in shades of yellow, orange, and red. They are carnivorous, mainly devouring beetles and beetle larva and occasionally other insects. Lacewings are popular with farmers as many of their preferred beetle varieties feed upon domesticated crops. As a result many farmers will purposely plant trees near their fields in the hope of attracting a kaleidoscope of Lacewings to lay their eggs in its bark. A Lacewing will remain in the caterpillar stage for up to 4 months, eating constantly until it believes it has stored enough nutrients to undergo its long metamorphosis.  

Pupa / Cocoon

Unlike most butterflies the Lacewing Butterfly undergoes metamorphosis within a cocoon rather than a chrysalis. The Lacewing Butterfly can spend up to 6 months in their cocoon during metamorphosis, so the cocoons consist of two layers. The harder, outer layer contains thicker silk strands mixed with a poisonous chemical substance to deter predators. The inner layer is composed of fine, high quality silk strands.
The Lacewing's long cocoon stage makes them particularly vulnerable to the silk trade. Silk manufacturers would remove cocoons from the wild and boil them in a bleaching agent, killing the growing butterfly inside while weakening the outer layer for easier removal. The high temperatures would also denature the cocoon's poison protection to allow for safe handling of the silk. Killing the butterfly was deemed necessary to obtain the longest silk strands possible.
As a result of this process the Lacewing Butterfly was in danger of extinction until the invention of Coactive Spinning, which allowed the use of broken cocoons while allowing the creation of stronger threads with less effort. Now wild cocoons are still harvested for the silk trade, but silk manufacturers prefer to use cocoons after the butterflies have burst free as the broken cocoons provide silk of just as high quality for less manual labor.  

Adults

Adult Lacewing Butterflies have four wings, two forewings and two hindwings. The wings attach to the thorax, located between its head and its abdomen. The head, thorax, and abdomen of the Lacewing are a lustrous black while their wings are translucent and highly prismatic. These butterflies tend to gather in small groups, confusing and blinding predators with the large patches of moving refracted light. Adult butterflies eat pollen, storing up nutrients to pass on to their eggs, and live for 6 to 8 weeks.

Additional Information

Domestication

While Lacewing Butterfly farms do exist for the purpose of easy silk harvesting, the butterflies raised in these farms are typically indistinguishable from their wild relatives, although a few farms have been putting in efforts to specifically breed strains to produce even higher quality silk or, in some cases, in an attempt to breed butterflies favoring either the thicker outer cocoon silk (for industrial purposes and upholstery) or the finer internal cocoon silk (for clothing fabrics).

Uses, Products & Exploitation

Lacewing Butterflies are known best for their silk production, as their silk thread is considered of high quality due to its light refractive properties and innate strength. The caterpillars of the species are also parasitic, their diets mostly composed of crop-eating beetles, making the butterflies popular with farmers due to their pest-reduction and pollination tendencies.

Geographic Origin and Distribution

The Lacewing Butterfly is found mainly in the tropical and temperate climates of Rol'na.

Scientific Name
Silsis lacona
Lifespan
6 to 12 months
Conservation Status
Near Threatened
Average Length
5 inch wingspan
Body Tint, Colouring and Marking
This butterfly has a deep black thorax with translucent prismatic wings which refract light.
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Cover image: Nature Forest Trees by jplenio

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