Insect eggs come in myriad sizes, shapes and colours. Some eggs are laid singly, some in clusters, and some en masse, enclosed in a webby or gelatinous protective case. Eggs provide a wonderful window into the evolutionary forces that play a key role in animal reproduction. Some eggs have evolved to extreme levels to gain protection from predation, while some simply lie hidden in plain sight.
Here are some images of insect eggs photographed across the forests of Karnataka.
Lacewings have devised a way to protect their eggs from predation by producing a tiny silken thread and placing the egg at the tip of it. This gives the eggs protection from ants and other insects trying to eat them. Also, lacewing larvae are voracious eaters, so the eggs are placed away from one another to protect them from cannibalising as soon as they hatch.
These are not flowers or fungi, but eggs of an assassin bug (Endochus sp.)! Easily one of the coolest looking eggs I have come ever across, they are truly a work of art.
This unusual looking egg mass laid by an assassin bug (Endochus sp.) was seen under a leaf. The way the eggs are stacked and gelled together to hang them vertically is something unique compared to the eggs of other species of assassin bugs. Each cherry-like blob is an individual egg and the elongated filament has a pore at the very tip to allow respiration.
Coreidae (leaf-footed bug) eggs are mostly seen deposited on the lower surface of leaves and the clusters are seen arranged in different, interesting patterns.
Another clutch of Coreidae eggs with a different colour and shape.
A freshly laid cluster of eggs of the Three-spot Grass Yellow butterfly (Eurema blanda) on the leaves of its host plant (Cassia sp.).
Every katydid species has its own unique and sometimes decorative way of laying eggs. Here, it is fascinating to see how precisely the ovipositor of the katydid has sliced the leaf at the centre and placed the eggs inside it.
Cockroaches lay an egg case or sack called ootheca which contains many eggs inside. The ootheca is soft when fresh and gradually hardens into a tough leathery exterior that protects the eggs from both predators and some insecticides.
A Globular Stink bug (Megacopta sp.), belonging to the Plataspidae family, with its freshly laid eggs.
Beautifully laid eggs of an owlfly encircling a dry stem.
Eggs of Pentatomidae (stink bugs) which appear to be almost developed. They have evolved to synchronise their hatching to maximise their survival.
This complex and intricately laid bunch of eggs belongs to a stick insect (Trachythorax sp.).
A clutch of katydid eggs which were laid on a dry twig are being used by parasitoid wasps to lay their eggs. These wasps lay their own eggs inside an egg, caterpillar or pupa of another species. Parasitoids start their lives as parasites, in or on the body of a host, but they end up as predators, eating the host entirely.
This is an extreme level of evolution! Leaf insect (Pulchriphyllium sp.) eggs look very much like plant seeds and are impossible to spot once the eggs are tossed by females from the trees down to the forest floor.
These photographs represent just a few of the thousands of eggs described in scientific literature. The size of these eggs vary from just around half a millimetre (Plataspidae eggs) to half an inch (cockroach ootheca). The biggest known eggs of the insect world are from the earth-borer beetle which are around 10mm and the smallest ones are from parasitoid wasps and Tachinid flies which are around 0.02mm. It is astonishing to see the stunning variety of colours, shapes and designs. Hope you enjoyed seeing the photographs as much as I enjoyed shooting them!