Butterflies and their larva form an important part of the food chain and in order to ensure their survival they have adopted various means of camouflage and protection.
Some butterflies have markings that resemble eyes on their wings, these will often startle their enemies or divert an attack away from the pretty butterflies vulnerable body. Other species camouflage themselves cleverly so they cannot be seen; a good example is the leaf butterfly that resembles a dead leaf. Other colourful butterflies advertise the fact that they are poisonous or taste bad to their enemies by their vivid colours.
The variety of size, shape and colour of larvae is almost as great as that of the adult butterflies. Butterfly larvae are soft bodied, slow moving creatures, which make them very vulnerable to a wide range of predators. In order to assure an acceptable survival rate, the larvae have developed many different protective characteristics.
Some butterfly larvae are covered with conspicuous branching spines that offer very good protection. Others may be coloured green to blend in with the leaves that they are feeding on. Others resemble bird droppings, something a bird looking for food would not find attractive!
The larvae of the Milkweed butterfly Danaus plexippus is not camouflaged at all, and the bright colours serve as a warning signal to predators. These larvae concentrate a poisonous substance in their bodies from their food source, making them unpalatable to their enemies.