The butterfly life cycle is one of the most captivating transformations in nature, featuring four major stages known as metamorphosis: egg, caterpillar, chrysalis and adult.
After mating, female butterflies look for suitable plant species upon which to lay their eggs. She can identify an ideal leaf by its shape and color.
Female butterflies who are ready to lay eggs will locate an ideal location on their host plant before applying a sticky substance that adheres the eggs securely, protecting them from predation by birds, ants, or other insects. This also reduces predation from predatory creatures.
Eggs hatched from caterpillar eggs hatch into larva, an aquatic insect that feeds on plant matter from which it was laid. As it feeds on its host plant, its outer exoskeleton may molt several times. When caterpillars reach full size they form hard shells called pupae which will become butterfly wings in time for its most dramatic metamorphosis into butterflies.
Inside a pupa lies a chrysalis, which appears resting, but in actuality is going through rapid transformations known as complete metamorphosis, when parts that we recognize as butterflies begin to form.
Once its wings have fully developed, a butterfly will mate and then lay its own eggs to continue the cycle. This behavior demonstrates instinctive behaviour – whereby an animal acts upon what they know without needing to be taught or reminded about its actions.
Karner blue butterflies lay their eggs from late May to early June on various host plants native to Kentucky, which will hatch seven to eight days after laying, with larvae feeding on Lupine (Lupinus perrennis) from summer until fall before overwintering as pupae that emerge in early spring to mate and emerge again as adults in springtime.
As soon as a butterfly has reached sexual maturity, they will pair off and mate by joining end to end at their abdomens. The male butterfly will pass sperm from its abdomens directly onto the female butterfly’s bursa until she’s ready to release them and store fertilized eggs until later laying. These eggs play an integral part of butterfly life cycle and must be protected from predators such as birds, reptiles and amphibians until hatching into caterpillar form.
Once the eggs hatch, caterpillars begin their growth phase: larval development. At this stage they feed on leaves and other plant parts for food – female butterflies only lay their eggs on plants she knows will provide nourishment for her young. She intuitively knows which plants will allow the caterpillars to mature into strong flying adults capable of mating and producing more eggs.
A caterpillar feeds on food at a fast rate, and their mouth and gills continue to expand with every bite they take. After three or four episodes, its body reaches full size; at which time, it seeks out a protected spot and undergoes its final molt, changing its exoskelton shape as its exoskelton splits open into its pupal skin which may be green or brown depending on which species of butterfly has emerged as its prey; its color allows it to blend in seamlessly with its environment; which ensures its survival throughout its existence as it will spend most of its life spent living its pupal stage stage of development.
At this chrysalis stage, a caterpillar’s digestive juices breakdown its body into tissue cell soup. This allows special cells to develop into wings, legs, eyes and other parts that will form part of its adult form – while their original digestive and respiratory systems continue to provide energy to support their development.
Once a caterpillar reaches its maximum size, it releases a chemical called Ecdysone that prompts other molting processes and leads it toward an ideal location for entering chrysalis mode. They find such spots by attaching themselves securely to undersides of leaves or branches via silk pads embedded into hard appendages called Cremasters; then shed their old exoskelton and reveal the chrysalis.
After some time – from as little as one week up to two weeks depending on its species – a butterfly emerges from its chrysalis into full butterfly form, finding a mate, laying eggs and repeating its cycle. At this stage it must learn how to fly, defend itself from predators and get enough food for itself and its offspring.
As soon as a caterpillar reaches maturity, it sheds its skin for the final time and enters pupal stage. While resting, its hard shell, called chrysalis (plural: chrysalides), protects it from further infection by hormones. Although appearing dormant during this phase, its internal structures are disassembling and reforming to become part of an adult butterfly’s body – this process being managed by hormones.
Once a caterpillar has become a pupa, it searches for the optimal place for its next stage – this may mean hanging from a branch, resting in tree trunk cracks or digging its way underground. Some species of butterflies spend several weeks or months as pupae before transitioning into adults.
Pupal skins typically feature camouflaging colors or bright warning markings to deter predators, while old caterpillar bodies disassemble and reform into wings, legs, abdomen and other components for adulthood – the chrysalis provides the ideal vessel to help this transformation occur since it is waterproof and can withstand adverse weather conditions.
At this time, male and female butterflies will mate. Sperm will then enter through a female’s egg-laying tube, fertilizing her eggs – eventually giving birth to larvae (nymphs) within a week or so.
As soon as the larvae have started feeding on host plant leaves, nymphs will stop eating and search for a safe spot where they can pupate – often by attaching themselves to branches or rocks and creating a protective cocoon known as a chrysalis.
The chrysalis will eventually open and release its newly grown butterfly into the world, its wings slightly shrunken from being folded during its transformation process in the chrysalis stage but can be expanded through contact with liquid such as blood or dew. From there it takes flight into its lifecycle once again – this cycle repeats for each butterfly born – providing readers with lively full-color photos and carefully leveled text that engage them throughout its remarkable transformation process.
Once a butterfly hatches, its first life stage is known as larva. This first stage typically lasts around a week. As soon as a caterpillar hatches it begins eating and rapidly growing before eventually molting four times during this phase – at which time its wings expand enough for flight.
Once a caterpillar is ready to advance to its next stage, it finds a protected chrysalis to transform into. During its time spent here it will transform into an adult butterfly and emerge later. It is truly one of nature’s most captivating processes to witness.
This stunning process will astonish and amaze! A caterpillar will liquefy and transform itself into a butterfly during its pupal stage, developing wings, eyes, legs and even an edible straw-like tongue to feed off. Chrysalises often come in colors to blend in with their surroundings for maximum camouflage against predators who might try and eat the butterfly as soon as it emerges from its cocoon.
While in its chrysalis, a butterfly will rest; however, this stage should not be seen as resting; rather it marks its transformation into an adult butterfly! Wings will have fully developed (their precursors formed underneath its caterpillar skin during last molt). Eyes will become fully developed while any chewing mouth parts from caterpillar will now serve as sucking mouth parts of butterfly.
As soon as a butterfly is ready, they pull their wings from their chrysalis and hang upside-down in order to pump fluid into their wings, which will stretch and dry them faster. After several hours have passed, it can fly away – hopefully finding love soon after and continuing the cycle!