The lady beetle: Homage to Kafka

Franz Kafka’s novel Metamorphosis was thought by Vladimir Nabokov to refer to a beetle *, and this is the story of a small beetle that metamorphoses through three distinct stages (post-egg), until it appears as our familiar ladybird (or ladybug in the US).  There are rather a lot of photos today, and little text.

We begin with the larva, this one is I think the fourth of five stages:

Harmonia axyridis, harlequin ladybird

It splits its skin (leaving white spiky remnants still visible), to form a pupa:


or two:

Harmonia axyridis, pupa

The pupa is motionless, and at the mercy of predators:

Harmonia axyridis, pupa

And from the pupa emerges the soft, spotless adult, head first and wings last:

Harmonia axyridis, emergingHarmonia axyridis, emergingHarmonia axyridis, emergingHarmonia axyridis, emerging

The empty pupa case is left behind:

Harmonia axyridis, pupa

and the soft vulnerable ladybird rests with its wings expanded:

Harmonia axyridis, emerging

Gradually the wing cases harden, and the spots develop. This next photo is taken 2 1/4 hours after emergence:

Harmonia axyridis, emerging

24 hours later, it has fully darkened and the spots have grown too:


Small miracles, every day. here is a time lapse 3 minute video of the whole process:


To be precise, my photos are of a Harlequin Ladybird, or Harmonia axyridis, photographed in Maine, USA, but an immigrant from Eurasia. It is a member of the family Coccinelidae.

* Kafka’s beetle is sometimes referred to as a cockroach, but Nabokov, who was a renowned lepidopterist, thought it was just a “big beetle”, and drew a picture on his own annotated copy of Metamorphosis. It looks quite like a ladybird to me!


From Josh Jones’ blog:

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