Bugs lay their eggs in many different ways, and those eggs pop out in a fascinating array of shapes and sizes, colors and textures. Some are smooth and globular, others rough and ridged. Some look like Skittles and others more like Raisinets. Some eggs are transparent, others opaque, and many of them look intriguingly alien. Certain species of bug can even alter the color of their eggs to fit in better with environmental factors.
Different species might lay their eggs in wood, on other natural or artificial surfaces, or glued to the underbellies of leaves.* If you’d like to see some egg laying in action, check out this ladybug producing perfect yellow cylinders.
One example is the beetle, which usually lays dozens or hundreds of eggs in one sitting. After laying her eggs, a beetle wanders off and the wingless beetle larvae are left to fend for themselves–it’s important to ensure that they aren’t accidentally eaten by other animals, and that there’s a source of food nearby. The larvae then develop into pupa, and finally, adult beetles.
Butterfly eggs can be identified by a small depression at their tops, which has a hole at its center called the micropyle. This is where the sperm enters during fertilization. If you look really, really closely, you’ll also notice thousands of tiny, microscopic pores called aeropyles, which are like breathing tubes for the developing larva.
When mother butterflies scope out locations for egg laying, they intentionally avoid spots that have already been claimed, to avoid the chance of eggs being eaten by predators like cannibalistic caterpillars. Laying the eggs in batches can improve chances of survival, though can also jeopardize the whole cluster. When laying eggs, the butterfly looks like she’s piping icing with her abdomen.
Female stick insects can actually produce eggs without any kind of fertilization by a male, in a process known as parthenogenesis (check it out in action here). They will only lay between one and seven eggs per day, either dropping them to the ground, burying them, or glueing them to plants. Depending on the species, eggs may take between two and 14 months to hatch into nymphs.
The eggs of the Chrysomela populi, the red poplar leaf beetle, are laid in clusters. They are also prone to sibling egg cannibalism, which is just what it sounds like.
These eggs, resembling a ninja’s iron spike ball, belong to the stink bug (Podisus maculiventris). The momma stink bug actually has the ability to choose the color of her eggs. The coloring ranges from pale yellow to black, depending on the surface on which she lays them.
In addition, stinkbug eggs have little blobs on top that are nutrient-rich and attractive to ants, which incentivizes ants to carry the eggs off and store them with their food. The eggs hatch in the comfort and protection of the ant colony—and interestingly, when they first hatch, the bug larva even resembles ants.
These tiny, tawny eggs belong to the red-shouldered stink bug (Thyanta custator).
The eggs to the far right of this dime are the largest eggs of any insect, while the smallest, in comparison, must be viewed under a microscope. From left to right: clusters of Atlas moth eggs; Saturniid moth eggs; Madagascan comet moth eggs; Extatosoma tiaratum eggs (Macleay’s Spectre Stick Insect); Heteropteryx dilatata eggs (Jungle Nymph Stick Insect).
These are what the eggs of the green shield bug (Palomena prasina) look like once they are hatched and abandoned.
Resembling miniature melons, these eggs of the pentatomid bug (Holcostethus limbolarius) are being scoped out by a Scelionid wasp.
Likely the eggs of the horned squash bug (Anasa tristis).
A brilliant green metallic wood-boring beetle (belonging to the Buprestidae beetle family) laying what look like tiny chicken eggs.
A delicate collection of butterfly eggs (species not identified).
These look like the eggs of the pipevine swallowtail butterfly (Battus philenor). Either that or fruit gummy candy.
A nest of spider eggs—not a nest you want to bump into.
Here’s a whole assortment of different eggs, mostly belonging to stick insects (phasmida). It looks like a pile of dried beans.
A collection of eggs produced by different stick insect species (phasmida). Even within one type of insect, the eggs can take on all sorts of different looks. Phasmida eggs are some of the most interesting in appearance, with many looking like ancient pottery.
*Correction: This story has been updated since it was first published to address conflicting details about the terminology used to describe insects that lay eggs.