Butterfly and Moth Life Cycle

1. EGG - The females of different species of butterflies and moths lay tiny eggs on the plant their caterpillars will like to feed on.

2. LARVA (Caterpillar) - Tiny caterpillars of moths and butterflies soon hatch out of each of the eggs. Once the caterpillars hatch they eat their egg shell and then they feed on leaves from the plant for a few weeks and grow. The caterpillars can only nibble little bits of leaves because they are so tiny. They eat all day long and every day of the week until they get bigger and bigger. The more they eat, the bigger they grow and the bigger they grow the tighter their skin gets until it gets too tight and splits open. The skin splits all the way down and underneath is a new skin that is bigger and the old skin is shed.

3. PUPA (Chrysalis) - When the caterpillar reaches its full size, it prepares to turn into a chrysalis or cocoon. Some caterpillars attach themselves to a leaf or twig to form the pupa and certain species spin a cocoon around the pupa. The pupa outer case is hard and it stays still and inactive. But inside, the larva continues changing its body shape into a butterfly or moth. The caterpillar then metamorphosis (change/develop) into butterflies and moths.

4. ADULT (Butterfly/Moth) - The pupa's case finally splits open from which the adult butterfly or moth crawls out into the world. Their body, legs and wings spread out, dry and harden and the butterfly life cycle and the moth life cycle starts all over again. They are ready to find food and to find a mate.

There are at least 125,000 known species in the world. These beautiful insects have four broad or lanceolate (tapering to a point at the apex and sometimes at the base) wings usually covered with minute overlapping often brightly colored scales and whose larvae are caterpillars. The color in a butterfly’s wings does not come from pigment. The color is produced prism-like by light reflected by their transparent wing scales. The four wings are covered with fine gossamer scales. If you look through a magnifying glass you would see that their scales look like the tiles on a roof, they overlap each other and help to hold the wings together.  If you have ever held a butterfly you may have noticed the dust from its wings on your fingers.  The dust in thousands of these scales. 



Insects are any of a class of arthropods (as bugs or bees) with well defined head, thorax and abdomen, only three pairs of legs, and typically one or two pairs of wings. All insects begin their lives as small eggs. When the eggs of butterflies and moths hatch they do not look like their parents. This young stage is called a larva, which is a caterpillar or grub.

Lanceolate is where the wings of an insect taper to a point at the apex and sometimes at the base.

Lepidoptera which means 'scaled wings' is any of a large order of insects comprising the butterflies and moths.

Metamorphosis is a marked and more or less abrupt change in the form or structure of an animal occurring subsequent to birth or hatching. Caterpillars metamorphosis (develop) into butterflies and moths.

Caterpillar/Larva is the stage of development of an insect between egg and pupa, a caterpillar. It is the immature, wingless, and often vermiform (worm-shaped) feeding form that hatches from the egg of many insects. It alters chiefly in size while passing through several molts, and is finally transformed into a pupa or chrysalis from which the adult emerges. Because the caterpillar’s skin does not grow along with it, it periodically sheds the skin as it becomes too tight. Most caterpillars molt five times before entering into the pupa stage. A caterpillar has three sets of mouth parts, 1. the jaw-like mandibles, they do most of the work 2. the second pair pulls food into the mouth and 3. the third set are joined together to form the lower lip.

Chrysalis is the pupa of a butterfly that passes the pupal stage in a resting condition enclosed in a firm case. Caterpillars shed their final skin which is the pupa. It is this outer skin that hardens to form a chrysalis which protects and hides the transformation that is occurring inside. The chrysalis looks like a dead leaf and therefore protects it from being eaten.

Cocoon is an envelope often largely of silk which an insect larvae forms about itself and in which it passes the pupa stage. The pupal case is commonly called a cocoon. Butterflies do not spin cocoons. Silk moths spin cocoons of silken threads, often using leaves to help surround them.

Pupa is a metamorphic insect in an intermediate (usually resting) form assumed between the larval and the imaginal stages and characterized by internal dedifferentiation of larva structures and their replacement by structures typical of the imago. The pupae can take on a wide variety of shapes, sizes and color. Some hang from beneath leaves or twigs and others are attached to the side of a stem; some are smooth and shiny or rough and spiky. But the primary function is to lessen the chances of being eaten and to produce an adult butterfly or moth.

Pollinate is to place pollen on the stigma or to mark or smudge with pollen. Pollination is an important part of reproduction in plants. Pollination can take place by the flowers releasing loads of tiny pollen into the air, and the breeze carries it to other flowers or insects such as butterflies and moths land on the flower to feed on the nectar and they get covered with the pollen, the butterflies and moths then flies away carrying the pollen to the next flower. Even cactus flowers are visited by butterflies and moths.