Butterfly Life Cycle

The Egg

The Egg

The female butterfly attaches an egg to a leaf or any other part of the plant that a caterpillar can eat. The butterfly will lay anywhere from one to one hundred eggs at a time. The eggs will usually hatch 4-6 days after being laid.

Caterpillar

Caterpillar

When the caterpillar hatches from the egg it is barely noticeable to the eye. When it leaves the area where the egg was laid, it travels to various plants, trees, and bushes to feed on the leaves. As it grows it begins to eat more and more. Eventually the caterpillar will even be able to eat its own body weight in day. This stage usually lasts for 9-14 days after the caterpillar sheds its skin 5 times.

The Catepillar will loose interest in eating and wander around. Then soon it will start forming a silkpad on the underside of a leaf. The caterpillar will then hook its hind legs onto the silk pad and lie upside down in a J-shape for one day. This is the beginning of the caterpillar turning into a Chrysalis. Enzymes are released to digest caterpillar tissue.

The Catepillars skin sheds for the last time. Under the skin is a green colored casing which makes up the chrysalis. Within an hour the shell chrysalis hardens into a protective shell.  The transformation happens for 9 to 14 days.

Chrysalis

Chrysalis

The Chrysalis is the third stage of a butterflies life is also known as the pupa. Once full grown the caterpillar will find a place to pupate (form its chrysalis). It will attach itself with a silk like mat and lay in a J shape for about a day.

During this stage it does not eat. It can last anywhere from a few days to months. Some butterflies will  even lay dormit in the pupa over the winter and emerge in the spring. Some Chrysalis’s turn transparent about 24 hours before they become adult butterflies.

Adult

Adult

This is the last yet most recognized stage of a butterfly’s life. The life span differs from each species. Some live only a couple of days while others live months. Monarch butterflies live about two week and feed on rotten fruit or other nectar plants for this last stage in their life. Other common food sources include pollen, tree sap, rotting fruit, dung or dissolved minerals.