Butterflies have unique life cycles that are full of drastic changes. Although they begin their lives as caterpillars, in time, they undergo a transformation so they can sprout wings and become pollinators. Artist Levon Biss highlights the fascinating beauty of the lesser-seen stage of metamorphosis with his macro photography portraits of butterfly pupae.
Focusing primarily on Asian species of butterflies, these close-up images display the variety of forms pupae take. “The butterfly pupae series is part of an ongoing project that explores the diversity of design in nature,” Biss explains to My Modern Met. “When the caterpillar is full grown and stops eating, it becomes a pupa. Pupae are usually immobile and are largely defenseless. To overcome this, pupae often are covered with a cocoon of varying design and texture to conceal themselves in the environment.”
In this series alone, we see cocoons in all shapes and colors. Some resemble fallen brown leaves in their earthy tones and uneven texture, while others look remarkably like lush green foliage. There are examples that also sport bright shimmering colors and bold patterns, perhaps to ware off potential predators. “The pupa can be found suspended under a branch or hidden within piles or leaves, sometimes they are also buried underground,” Biss continues. “This stage can last from a few weeks, a month, or even longer. Some species have a pupal stage that lasts for two years and it may look like nothing is going on, but big changes are happening inside.” Eventually, the metamorphosis will come to a close and reveal the last stage of the insect's life, when it finally evolves into an adult butterfly.