Life Cycle of A Butterfly


by pumping blood into its head and thorax which swell and crack the shell. The head and thorax are the first structures to emerge. Next, the butterfly pushes its legs out and pulls its swollen abdomen and compressed wings free.

The butterfly that emerges is wet and its wings are soft; it must rest to allow its structures to expand, dry, and harden. After which it flies off to find a mate and the life cycle repeats to produce another generation of butterflies.

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has compound eyes and a pair of prominent antennae. Butterflies do not feed like caterpillars as they do not have chewing mouthparts to ingest plants; instead, they have sucking mouthparts. Butterflies feed on flower nectar, pollen, rotting fruit and other plant fluids through their

– a long coiled sucking tube for drinking.

To frighten away approaching predators, some butterflies flash

(false eyes) on their wings which trick their predators into thinking that they have encountered a bigger animal. Even when attacked, these eye spots on its wings tend to be the target of the attack and the butterfly can escape with its body intact.

Most butterflies live only 1-2 weeks, but some species may live up to 18 months., CCFF99,500), playSnd(laser.wav); ONMOUSEOUT=hideddrivetip() shape=rect coords=233, 24, 332, 120

in batches of 10-100 on the underside of leaves of plants that the caterpillars will use for food.

For example, female monarch butterflies will lay their eggs only on milkweed because milkweed is the only food that monarch butterfly caterpillars will eat., FFCCCC, 350); ONMOUSEOUT=hideddrivetip() shape=rect coords=388, 155, 486, 252

Caterpillars eat continuously and voraciously. In one day, a caterpillar may eat many times its weight in food – causing widespread damage to vegetation.

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have elastic cylindrical bodies, simple eyes, chewing mouthparts and legs on the thorax.

Caterpillars have various natural protections from predators – colours to blend with their surroundings; gaudy colourful dots or stripes to make them look fierce; unpleasant smells; or poisonous nettle-like hairs to make them less tasty!, FFFF99, 400), playSnd(laser.wav); ONMOUSEOUT=hideddrivetip() shape=rect coords=234, 307, 332, 400

AN AMAZING CHANGE – The pupa does not feed and does not appear to be alive, but inside the shell, a transformation occurs – larval structures are broken down and re-formed into those of an adult butterfly., B4FFFF, 400); ONMOUSEOUT=hideddrivetip() shape=rect coords=77, 157, 175, 251

i.e., shed their exoskeletons or skins. This skin-shedding occurs 5-6 times.

The caterpillar grows rapidly but its skin, however, does not grow. When the skin becomes too tight, it splits lengthwise along the back and the caterpillar wriggles out of it, revealing a soft new exoskeleton which hardens after a few hours.

Photo credit: Bdot Used with permission

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[More photographs] [ BUTTERFLY MASK from PBS:Colour::Black & White::Instructions for Mask Assembly]

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