Butterfly Life Cycle Defined With Photos & Details On All 4 Phases

An evidence of the butterfly life cycle, with footage and details.


Butterflies aren’t born because the large-winged, brightly-colored bugs we see in our gardens and parks. As an alternative, the life cycle of a butterfly includes 4 separate phases, throughout which the our bodies of those acquainted bugs endure a outstanding change generally known as metamorphosis.

Though many bugs have the identical four-stage life cycle as butterflies, the emergence of an grownup butterfly from its chrysalis is without doubt one of the most spectacular examples of this course of.

(Additional down the web page we evaluate the life cycle of a butterfly with that of different insect teams.)

Web page Contents

  • Life Cycle Of A Butterfly
  • The Phases Of The Butterfly Life Cycle In Element
  • Eggs
  • Larvae
  • Pupae
  • Imago
  • Full Metamorphosis (Holometabolism)
  • Do All Butterflies Have The Identical Life Cycle?
  • Butterfly vs Moth Life Cycle
  • Incomplete Metamorphosis (Hemimetabolism)
  • Do All Bugs Bear Metamorphosis?
  • Uncover Extra with Energetic Wild

Life Cycle Of A Butterfly

Butterfly Life Cycle
Monarch butterfly life cycle

The life cycle of a butterfly consists of 4 distinct phases:

  1. Egg: A feminine butterfly lays tiny, oval eggs on the leaves or stems of vegetation that may function meals for her offspring. The eggs are connected to the plant with a glue-like substance secreted by the butterfly.
  2. Larva (Caterpillar): After hatching from the egg, the larva, generally generally known as a caterpillar, emerges. This stage primarily includes feeding on plant materials to develop. Because it grows, the caterpillar sheds its pores and skin a number of instances, a course of known as molting.
  3. Pupa (Chrysalis): As soon as absolutely grown, the caterpillar attaches itself to an appropriate construction (e.g., a leaf or stem) and kinds a protecting casing round itself known as a chrysalis. Inside this casing, it undergoes a outstanding transformation, generally known as metamorphosis, restructuring its physique to grow to be a butterfly.
  4. Imago (Grownup Butterfly): After metamorphosis is full, the grownup butterfly emerges from the chrysalis. It then expands and dries its wings earlier than flying off. The grownup stage is primarily for copy, the place the butterfly seeks a mate to start the cycle anew.


The plural types of larva and pupa are larvae and pupae, respectively.

Imago is a time period used for the grownup stage in an insect’s life cycle.

The phrase “imago” comes from the Latin for “picture”. The proper plural type of imago is “imagines”, however “imagoes” can be used.

The Phases Of The Butterfly Life Cycle In Element

Butterfly Eggs

Mission Blue Butterfly Egg
Egg of the mission blue butterfly

Butterfly eggs are the preliminary stage within the life cycle of a butterfly. These tiny, often ovular constructions are laid by feminine butterflies on particular host vegetation which caterpillars will feed on upon hatching.

The looks of butterfly eggs can range between species however they typically possess intricate designs and patterns when noticed carefully. The outer protecting layer of the egg known as the chorion, and it’s permeated with tiny pores (generally known as aeropyles) to permit the creating embryo to breathe.

Butterfly Eggs Caper White
Eggs of the caper white butterfly

The situation and coloration of the eggs, whether or not camouflaged or conspicuous, sometimes function a protection mechanism towards predators or as an adaptation to the surroundings. After a sure time period, the caterpillar (larva) emerges from the egg, marking the following part within the butterfly’s life cycle.

Question Mark Butterfly Eggs
Query mark butterfly eggs

Butterfly Larvae (Caterpillars)

Monarch Butterfly Caterpillar
Monarch butterfly caterpillar. Like all butterfly caterpillars, it has three pairs of true legs in direction of the entrance of its physique, plus quite a lot of further “prolegs” that may grip onto surfaces.

Butterfly larvae, or caterpillars, are the second stage within the butterfly’s life cycle.

After rising from the egg, caterpillars spend most of their time feeding on host vegetation, accumulating power and vitamins for his or her upcoming transformation.

Anise Swallowtail Butterfly Caterpillar
Anise swallowtail butterfly caterpillar

Their elongated, soft-bodied type is segmented and sometimes adorned with numerous patterns, colours, hairs, or spikes. These options can function camouflage, deter predators, or point out that they’re unpalatable.

Caterpillars have six true legs, plus quite a lot of further “prolegs” positioned additional down the physique. These fleshy stubs are outfitted with small hooks, generally known as “crochets” for gripping.

Question mark butterfly caterpillar
Query mark butterfly caterpillar

In some butterfly species, the larval stage is the one stage during which the butterfly will feed.

As caterpillars develop, they endure a sequence of molts, shedding their outer pores and skin to accommodate their rising dimension.

Red Admiral Butterfly Caterpillar
Crimson Admiral Butterfly Caterpillar

In the direction of the top of this stage, the caterpillar stops consuming and seeks an appropriate web site to progress to the pupal part. Right here, it is going to connect itself to a floor with silk (typically hanging upside-down) and carry out a closing molt, revealing its pupal type.

Butterfly Pupae (Chrysalises)

Monarch Butterfly Pupa
Monarch butterfly chrysalis (the translucent shell signifies that it’s about to hatch)

Butterfly pupae, or chrysalises, characterize the transformative third stage in a butterfly’s life cycle.

The chrysalis is often laborious and might range in coloration, typically mimicking its environment for camouflage. Inside the chrysalis, the caterpillar’s previous physique undergoes a dramatic change, reorganizing its cells and constructions to type the grownup butterfly.

Comma Butterfly Chrysalis
Comma butterfly chrysalis. Photograph: gailhampshire, CC BY 2.0, through Wikimedia Commons (cropped / resized by ActiveWild.com)

After the metamorphosis is full, the mature butterfly emerges from the chrysalis, dries its wings, and prepares for flight, marking the graduation of its grownup part.

Queen butterfly emerging from its chrysalis
Queen butterfly rising from its chrysalis


Viceroy Butterfly
Grownup viceroy butterfly (North America)

The imago stage of a butterfly’s life cycle refers back to the absolutely developed grownup part. On this stage, the butterfly emerges from the pupal case, and after spending a short time increasing its wings, is prepared for flight.

On this stage, the butterfly’s main operate is replica, though many butterfly species additionally feed as an imago.

Old World Swallowtail Butterfly
Outdated World Swallowtail Butterfly (Europe & North America)

The ultimate stage of the butterfly life cycle is characterised by vibrant colours, patterns on the wings, and the long-lasting butterfly look.

Butterflies make use of a variety of mating methods to make sure reproductive success:

  • Hilltopping: Males fly to the very best level in an space, reminiscent of a hill or a outstanding tree, to attend for females. This elevated place makes them simply seen to females.
  • Pheromone Launch: The butterfly releases chemical indicators generally known as pheromones, to draw potential mates.
  • Patrolling: Males fly round looking for receptive females. As soon as a feminine is positioned, courtship behaviors ensue.
  • Lekking: The males of some species congregate in teams generally known as leks, displaying competitively to draw females.
  • Puddle Clubbing: Males of sure species collect at moist spots or puddles to ingest minerals. These minerals are later transferred to females throughout mating as nuptial presents, enhancing the survival of their offspring.
  • Visible Shows: In some species, males carry out aerial courtship shows to draw females.

As soon as mated, the feminine butterfly will hunt down appropriate host vegetation on which to put her eggs, thereby finishing the life cycle.

Ulysses Butterfly
Ulysses butterfly (Australia)

Full Metamorphosis (Holometabolism)

The whole, four-stage course of, from egg to grownup butterfly, is named full metamorphosis, or holometabolism.

It’s not simply butterflies that endure full metamorphosis. In truth, the vast majority of bugs (together with flies, bees, wasps and beetles) have the identical, four-stage, life cycle.

Solely in butterflies is the pupa generally known as a chrysalis, and solely in butterflies and moths (and a small variety of different bugs) is the larva generally known as a caterpillar.

Not all bugs develop on this approach. Some bugs (e.g., dragonflies and cockroaches, amongst others) endure what is named an incomplete metamorphosis, and not using a pupal stage. Some teams of bugs don’t endure any sort of metamorphosis.

You’ll find out extra in regards to the life cycles of different insect teams additional down the web page.

Do All Butterflies Have The Identical Life Cycle?

All butterflies, it doesn’t matter what the species, share the identical, four-stage life cycle, though there could also be vital variations within the timings of every stage between species.

Some butterfly species produce a number of generations in a single 12 months, whereas others full a single life cycle in a single 12 months. Some species (notably these present in chilly areas) take a number of years to finish a single life cycle.

Relying on species, butterflies could overwinter as both an egg, pupa, larva or imago.

The monarch butterfly, a migratory species, has a notable life cycle. The northward leg of its migration is break up between a number of generations, whereas the return journey south is made by a single butterfly.

You’ll find out extra about this unbelievable journey on this web page: Monarch Butterfly Life Cycle

Butterfly vs Moth Life Cycle

Butterflies and moths have the identical four-stage life cycle. The primary distinction between the life cycles of moths and butterflies is that the caterpillars of many moths spin a silk cocoon during which they pupate.

Butterflies and moths are carefully associated, collectively making up the order Lepidoptera. (There are round ten instances as many moth species as there are butterfly species.)

You’ll find out extra in regards to the variations between butterflies and moths on this web page: Moth vs Butterfly

Incomplete Metamorphosis (Hemimetabolism)

Golden-ringed dragonfly (Cordulegaster boltonii). Dragonflies are an instance of bugs that endure incomplete, or partial metamorphosis.

Partial metamorphosis, often known as hemimetabolism or incomplete metamorphosis, is a kind of insect growth that features three main phases: egg, nymph, and imago (grownup stage).

Egg: The life cycle begins when a feminine insect lays eggs. These eggs are sometimes deposited on or close to the suitable meals supply for the rising nymphs.

Nymph (or Naiad in aquatic bugs): As soon as the egg hatches, a nymph emerges. Nymphs resemble miniature variations of the adults however lack absolutely developed wings and reproductive organs.

Because the nymph grows, it goes by a sequence of molts. With every molt, the nymph grows bigger and turns into extra related in look to the grownup. For a lot of bugs, wings develop externally in wing pads, which regularly enhance in dimension because the nymph progresses by its numerous instars (developmental phases between molts).

Within the case of aquatic bugs that endure partial metamorphosis (like dragonflies and mayflies), the nymphal stage is aquatic and is known as a “naiad.” Naiads have variations suited to underwater life, and as soon as their growth is full, they endure a closing molt to grow to be winged adults.

Imago (Grownup): After the ultimate molt, the insect emerges as a totally developed grownup, full with wings (if the species has them) and reproductive organs.

Adults are liable for replica, guaranteeing the continuation of the species.

Bugs that endure partial metamorphosis embrace true bugs (e.g., stink bugs and aphids), grasshoppers, dragonflies, and cockroaches, amongst others.

One of many distinguishing options of this sort of metamorphosis is that there isn’t a resting or non-feeding pupal stage as seen in full metamorphosis. As an alternative, the nymphs are sometimes energetic and feed equally to how the adults do.

Do All Bugs Bear Metamorphosis?

Whereas the vast majority of bugs endure both full or incomplete metamorphosis, the life cycle of some primitive, wingless bugs doesn’t contain metamorphosis. As an alternative, the younger of those species resemble adults, and after reaching sexual maturity, most proceed to molt (however not metamorphosize). The sort of insect life cycle is named ametabolism.

Examples of ametabolous bugs embrace numerous species of bristletails, silverfish, and firebrats.

Uncover Extra With Energetic Wild

Go to our primary animals web page for hyperlinks to animal info and a whole information to the animal kingdom: Animals

You’ll find out extra about bugs on this web page: Bugs – The Final Information

Uncover extra invertebrates on this web page: Listing Of Invertebrates

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