There are four stages of the Butterfly life cycle that can range from a month to a year depending on the type of butterfly. All butterflies go through a total metamorphosis. First butterflies are born as an egg. They hatch into a larva (caterpillar), then turn into a pupa (Chrysalis) before finally getting their wings (butterfly)! Each stage is very unique and we will explore each of them in detail below.
Adult butterflies (female) lay anywhere from ten to a hundred tiny eggs on leaves or plants depending on the species. They will lay eggs on the type of plants the caterpillars will eat once they hatch. The larva or caterpillar grows inside the egg. They are in this stage for about a week. If you are lucky enough to find some butterfly eggs going on a leaf and you look close enough, some butterfly eggs (like the monarch butterflies) you can actually see the tiny caterpillar growing inside of it.
Once the egg hatches a small worm-like larva comes out. The larva or caterpillar will start eating the leaf they hatched on almost right away. In fact almost all they do in this stage is eat. Due to their size travel is difficult and they will normally stay on the leave or plant they were hatch on.
They will eat a lot in this stage and can cause a lot of damage to vegetation. In fact they will normally eat more than their weight per day. Because of this, they grow very fast and will outgrow their skin several times while in this stage. Caterpillars do this by molting or shedding their outgrown skin.
Once the caterpillar if full grown they from a pupa or chrysalis. They hang upside down from a branch and form a hard protective shell to shed its last layer of skin. Inside the pupa the caterpillar begins the metamorphosis into a butterfly.
The hard shell becomes transparent and the wing patterns on the butterfly become more visible as the metamorphosis gets further along. This stage last for about three weeks. The pupa does not eat until it turns into a butterfly.
When the fully formed butterfly breaks through the hard pupa shell its wings will be soft and folding against its body. It straightens its wings by pushing blood into them. This makes them expand and harden. After a few hours the wings are ready and the butterfly can fly away to start the search for a mate in order to reproduce and for food. See what do butterflies eat for more information on the butterfly diet. Then the life cycle starts all over again.