If you haven’t taken a moment to really look at butterflies, you’re missing out. They’re more than just colorful bugs—they’re a group of insects consisting of almost 20,000 species of all sorts of incredible shapes and sizes. Their magic truly comes alive when you look up close.
PBS’s new special, Nature: Sex, Lies and Butterflies, does exactly that, depicting butterflies up close throughout their lives. And it’s not easy filming a show like this.
“Even breathing around the camera can create huge earthquakes for the larvae,” filmmaker Ann Johnson Prum told Gizmodo.
The clip begins with a painted lady laying blue eggs each the size of a pin head, which attach to a leaf with a natural glue. After a little over two weeks, the eggs hatch tiny blue caterpillars, themselves only the size of a grain of rice.
Prum has made other episodes of PBS Nature, including Emmy Award-winning Nature: Super Hummingbirds. She hopes to capture the incredibly alien world of the tiny with the new show.
“The whole show takes place on sort of a surreal scale,” she told Gizmodo. “Paul Giamatti was our narrator. He came in and said ‘This stuff can’t be real. You animated this, right?’ We’re so used to being able to create anything on the computer, but this is real nature.”
Nature: Sex, Lies and Butterflies isn’t the only beautiful television special to come out in recent weeks. National Geographic recently debuted its own stunning One Strange Rock, which offers perspectives on Earth as told through astronauts (I opted not to cover this show after Nat Geo sent me a “crystal healing” water bottle and a communications rep tried to gaslight me when I told them I thought it was weird.)
Prum commended One Strange Rock, and also noted that PBS is a donor-supported station with a much smaller budget.
Ultimately, she hopes that viewers of Nature: Sex, Lies and Butterflies will look at nature in a different way.
“These animals are really superheroes,” she told Gizmodo. “There’s a lot of drama out there. We can tap into that drama in a real way, not a hokey way. We just have to start looking around for it and we’ll see it.”
Nature: Sex, Lies and Butterflies will air PBS on Wednesday, April 4 at 8 pm ET, available to stream afterward.