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Butterfly Life Cycle

They Undergo Remarkable Changes

All butterflies have “complete metamorphosis.” To grow into an adult, they go through 4 stages: egg, caterpillar (larva), chrysalis (pupa) and adult. Depending on the type of butterfly, the life cycle of a butterfly may take anywhere from one month to a whole year.

The First Stage: The Egg

Some butterfly eggs may be round or oval, their colors can be yellow, white, green or other shades, and some may be ribbed, bumpy or smooth.

The egg features depend on the type (species) of butterfly that laid the egg. Inside these tiny eggs, caterpillars grow. The time it takes for the eggs to hatch varies – in some species, they will hatch within a few weeks.

Butterfly eggs are usually laid on the leaves of plants, so if you are searching for these very tiny eggs, you will have to take some time and examine quite a few leaves in order to find some. You may find the egg alone, or sometimes they may be found in a cluster.

The Second Stage: The Caterpillar (Larva)

When the egg hatches, the caterpillar will start his work and eat the leaf they were born onto. This is really important because the mother butterfly needs to lay her eggs on the type of leaf the caterpillar will eat – each caterpillar type likes only certain types of leaves.

Since they are tiny and cannot travel to a new plant, the caterpillar needs to hatch on the kind of leaf it wants to eat. When a caterpillar is born, they are extremely small. When they start eating, they instantly start growing and expanding.  Their exoskeleton (skin) does not stretch or grow, so they grow by “molting” (shedding the outgrown skin) several times while it grows.

The Third Stage: Chrysalis (Pupa)

As soon as a caterpillar is done growing and they have reached their full length and weight, they form themselves into a chrysalis, also known as a pupa.  From the outside of the chrysalis, it looks as if the caterpillar may just be resting, but the inside is where all of the action is.  Inside the pupa, the caterpillar is rapidly changing.

Caterpillars are short, stubby and have no wings at all.  Within the chrysalis the old body parts of the caterpillar are undergoing a remarkable transformation, called ‘metamorphosis,’ to become the beautiful parts that make up the butterfly that will emerge. Tissue, limbs and organs of a caterpillar have all been changed by the time the chrysalis is finished. The result? A wonderful winged butterfly!

The Fourth Stage: Adult Butterfly

Finally, when the caterpillar has done all of its forming and changing inside the chrysalis, if you are lucky, you will get to see an adult butterfly emerge. When the butterfly first emerges it’s not time for take-off just yet, as the wings are at first wet, soft and wrinkled against its body. The butterfly waits for its wings to dry,

As soon as the butterfly has rested after coming out of the chrysalis, it will pump blood into the wings in order to get them working and flapping – then they get to fly. Usually within a three or four-hour period, the butterfly will master flying and will search for a mate in order to reproduce. When a female lays their eggs on some leaves, the butterfly life cycle will start all over!

Source:; national geographic kids

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