The Life Cycle of Butterfly

the life cycle of butterfly

Female butterflies lay many eggs to increase the odds that at least some will survive and continue their lives as butterflies.

As soon as eggs hatch they transform into larvae or caterpillars which feed and develop while also shedding their skin periodically.

Once a caterpillar has completed its life cycle, it forms a protective shell called a chrysalis and rests for several weeks or months before emerging to resume lifecycle.


An insect’s lifecycle includes four stages: egg, larva, pupa and adulthood – this process is known as complete metamorphosis or alternation of forms.

Female butterflies lay from 200 to 500 eggs depending on the species of butterfly they belong to, with these being either spherical or ovate shaped and of various colors. Each egg is protected by its hard shell chorion that also contains a waxy layer to prevent dehydration of its contents; additionally there is an opening known as micropyle which allows sperm access into the egg for fertilization.

An egg takes between four to 12 days to hatch, during which special temporary organs known as embryonic membranes form within it to provide nutrition, respiration and excretion functions for its development. These membranes include the yolk sac for nutrition, amnion for protection from environmental factors and allantois as a waste repository – these will all dissolve when its time comes for it to come out! Eventually the chick will leave its mother’s womb.

After an egg hatches, its contents become butterfly larva (plural: caterpillars). As this larva progresses it eats away at its own exoskeleton while progressing through a series of instars whereby it sheds its outer covering to grow larger and gain stronger jaws and legs as time progresses – each time sheathing occurs it advances another stage further on this evolutionary process and thus advancing onto another instar.

Once a caterpillar reaches its final instar, it begins preparing for its pupal stage of development. Often it hides away under rocks or in hollow tree branches where it will change into its adult appearance before laying its eggs.

Once it emerges from its pupal stage, it will seek out a suitable mate before searching out suitable plants where to lay its eggs for its offspring and thus continuing the butterfly lifecycle. From eggs to adulthood and back again: what an incredible thing it is!


Once a larva hatches from its egg, it begins eating an important leaf for survival. Over time, it will consume so much that its current skin (called cuticle) becomes inadequate; at this point they shed (molt) it to make room for further expansion – repeating this cycle until big enough for metamorphosis to take place.

Once it reaches maturity, caterpillars begin looking for places to form an enclosure for themselves. Moths usually spin cocoons while butterfly caterpillars produce chrysalises; attaching itself with silk thread and hanging upside down on a support to attach itself with silk button before molting its last skin into their cocoon (not resting stage as some might assume), changing from caterpillar to butterfly or moth in one go!

As part of its transformation process, caterpillars release enzymes to dissolve most of their cells into tissue cell soup. A few cells remain known as “imaginal disks.” Each of these clusters of cells correspond to an adult body part; for instance one might become wings while another becomes eyes or legs.

Over the following days, the imaginal discs meld to form new wings, eyes, legs and other body parts. At this stage, the chrysalis hardens further while taking on its signature colors to blend in seamlessly with its surroundings.

Once a butterfly is ready to emerge, its hormone will trigger one last burst of Ecdysone, the same hormone which caused its caterpillars to begin moulting initially. When the caterpillar molts, its chrysalis will also fall off.

Once its chrysalis has hardened, the caterpillar will emerge and hang upside-down in order to stretch and dry its wings before pumping fluid into them until they become strong enough for flight.


Pupae are the third stage in the life cycle of insects undergoing complete metamorphosis, such as butterflies and moths. After larval stages have passed, and prior to adulthood (imago stages), in this sedentary phase locomotion and feeding cease altogether, with several significant internal transformations taking place, including body plan restructuring and the growth of wings structures.

Once a caterpillar reaches its final instar, it molts for the last time before looking for an appropriate place to pupal stage – usually under leaves, although sometimes stems or tree trunks. Once at their destination site, they create an exoskeleton made of hard material such as wood, silk or stone; once complete they form their shiny dark pupal skin which may contain patterns or other markings to help blend in with the surroundings.

While insects are in their pupal skins, their old skeleton is disassembled into groups of cells that will form their adult bodies (Towle 1989). This process is known as histolysis while cell regeneration known as histogenesis occurs simultaneously.

Pupae can take anywhere from two to ten months to develop, and in certain species only partially visible through their pupal skin until nearing completion. At this time, wings are being created through mitosis while its body elongates rapidly.

At just the right moment, pupal skin splits open and an adult butterfly emerges – a sudden and dramatic event often seen by humans; other butterflies remain hidden until their wings have fully regenerated before pumping blood into them to stiffen them and then taking to flight – this dramatic and exciting spectacle should not be disturbed as this could prove deadly for its inhabitants! But please avoid disturbing these fragile beings during this important phase in their development!


Students will love this riveting video as they witness an actual butterfly from its egg stage to adult. Watch as its journey is truly remarkable!

After mating, female butterflies search for suitable plants to lay their eggs. She usually recognizes the correct species by its leaf color and shape; sometimes she will also tap its leaves with her feet to release its unique scent before beginning laying her eggs there.

Once their eggs hatch, caterpillars begin developing. Feeding involves inserting their mouthparts into holes on host plants for food; unfortunately at this point their wings have yet to fully form so they are unable to fly.

Once a caterpillar is ready to pupate, it will stop eating and locate a place to create its cocoon. When making its cocoon, the caterpillar forms a hardened outer covering called a cuticle made up of chitin and other proteins – providing protection while growing. As it sheds this layer, or “molts,” several times over its lifecycle it reveals newer skin underneath, usually more pigmented epidermis that’s been exposed. This process is controlled by hormones and takes only hours per time!

At this stage, a caterpillar develops wings and eyes before producing silk to use for attaching itself to surfaces where its chrysalis will form. If desired, its color may match that of its host plant for easier integration; depending on species differences this process could take anywhere from one week to one year to complete.

Once a butterfly reaches adulthood, they must shed their exoskeleton in order to fly. Additionally, they must pump fluid into their wings until they dry and become strong enough to fly, as well as clean off their sensory organs (including their proboscis). Finally, they must clean off any sensory organs which they use for feeding themselves such as their proboscis.

Male butterflies use several methods to find suitable female partners for mating. They may patrol certain areas or “dance” near other males of their species. When two butterflies mate successfully, one passes sperm via an opening in its abdomen to the other butterfly via mating.

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