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Life cycle of Butterflies Complete Metamorphosis Four Stages of Life Egg Larva (Caterpillar) Pupa (Chrysalis - Butterfly or Cocoon - Moth) Adult Butterfly Butterflies and Moths belong to the Order Lepidoptera – scaled wings. Incomplete Metamorphosis Three Life Stages Egg

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complete metamorphosis
Complete Metamorphosis
  • Four Stages of Life
    • Egg
    • Larva (Caterpillar)
    • Pupa (Chrysalis - Butterfly or Cocoon - Moth)
    • Adult Butterfly

Butterflies and Moths belong to the Order Lepidoptera – scaled wings.

incomplete metamorphosis
  • Three Life Stages
    • Egg
    • Larva or nymph
    • Adult or Imago

Only 12% of all insects have incomplete metamorphosis. Dragonflies are an example of insects with an incomplete metamorphosis.

egg stage
Egg stage

Butterfly eggs are typically laid on plant leaves. This is a Monarch butterfly egg.

egg stage6

Eggs are attached to the plant by a sticky fluid that the female butterfly secretes. The egg is glued to the plant. Eggs are attached to a plant so strongly, that if your try to remove it, you will destroy the egg.

Lacewing butterfly eggs

egg stage7
Egg Stage

The egg stage of a butterflies life cycle usually lasts a few weeks. If the eggs are laid in the fall they will overwinter to hatch in the spring.

Swallowtail butterfly eggs

larva caterpillar stage
Larva - caterpillar stage

The egg hatches and out comes the very hungry caterpillar!

This is Monarch caterpillar.

larva caterpillar stage9
Larva - Caterpillar stage

The caterpillar begins to eat immediately. As the caterpillar grows it will shed its skin several times, this process is called molting. Swallowtail caterpillar in picture.

larva caterpillar stage10
Larva – Caterpillar stage

The famous Woolly Bear Caterpillar will become a Isabella Tiger Moth. It is unusual because it overwinters as a caterpillar.

karner blue caterpillars
Karner Blue Caterpillars

The Karner Blue Caterpillars have a unique relationship with ants. The ants protect them from some predators and parasites. The caterpillars secrete a sweet sticky substance that attracts and feeds the ants.

pupa chrysalis stage
pupa – chrysalis stage

Once the larva has grown it changes into a pupa or chrysalis. The pupa stage is where the metamorphosis occurs. Butterflies build chrysalis and moths build cocoons.

pupa chrysalis stage13
Pupa – Chrysalis stage

The pupa stage is not a resting period. The caterpillar is actually breaking down and dissolving so that it can reform its organs, tissues, limbs and wings.

Monarch Chrysalis

imago adult butterfly stage
Imago – Adult Butterfly stage

Monarch Butterfly emerging from its chrysalis.

adult butterfly stage
Adult Butterfly Stage

Adult butterflies use their proboscis to drink nectar. Nectar is the only food source for adult butterflies. This is a Tiger Swallowtail.

adult butterfly stage16
Adult Butterfly Stage

The focus of the adult butterfly is to mate and reproduce and thus begin the cycle again. This is a male Karner Blue Butterfly.

adult butterfly stage17
Adult Butterfly Stage

Approximately 2% of butterfly eggs make it to the adult butterfly stage. Photo of a Clouded Sulphur butterfly.


Super great website to check out-

Tiger Swallowtail

Red Spotted Purple Admiral