Watch the Life Cycle
of a Butterfly Unfold



Mating was a success.

The Life Cycle of a Butterfly Bontinues.

In this case, you will follow the cycle of a Red Admiral butterfly.

The female butterfly now embarks on a search of host plants to lay her eggs on or near the plant of choice.

With her keen sense of smell she is able to find the ideal plants to deposit her eggs on.

Oviposition ------the depositing of eggs by the female on a host plant, usually occurs when she lands on the host plant and curls her abdomen up onto a leaf, flower bud, or stem.

red admiral egg

Eggs are laid singly or in clusters usually on the underside of a host leaf.

The Life Cycle of a butterfly continues when the female lays an egg. At that moment, the egg is fertilized.

Female butterflies have a sack where they catch the male's sperm. There it sits until she is ready to lay her eggs. As the egg passes through, it is instantly fertilized, not a moment before.

The eggs of most species hatch in four to 10 days.

The Life Cycle of a Butterfly goes from egg to tiny caterpillar.

The Caterpillar or Larva.

Most caterpillars or larva are just a few millimeters long and many of them eat the egg casing for its first meal.

For some caterpillars, the egg casing is the only meal it gets before hibernation.

A caterpillar is an eating machine. Its consists of a pair of jaws or mandibles for chewing plant matter followed by a long gut for digestion.

For the next few weeks, a caterpillar will eat almost non stop.

If you spot a leaf or leaves with holes or scalloped edges, a caterpillar may be at work.

Look around and you may spot one eating like there is no tomorrow.

Before the Cycle of a Butterfly can continue, the larva must grow to adult size.

A caterpillar's skin doesn't stretch, so it must absorb and shed its skin four or five times. This process is known as "Ecdysis". and each stage of growth is called an Instar.

red admiral caterpillar

The new suit is over sized, much like the clothes your mom bought for you as a child.

She would buy them a couple of sizes larger and have us grow into them.

A caterpillar's skin is loose and grows into it before it splits this skin and does it all over again.


It moves using three pairs of true legs (like all insects) and five further pairs of "prolegs", sucker like structures with hooks on the end for gripping hold of the leaves and stems.

Along the side of the larva are small openings called "spiracles." Nine pairs in all, through which respiration occurs.

The larva has a modified set of salivary glands known as "spinnerets" that produce silk.

Caterpillars are as diverse as the butterflies they will become.

Many butterfly larvae are hairy, some quite spectacularly covered with bushes of "setae." This may well be a guard for potential predators.

Some are spiny and dark, others are smooth and striped.

Some come with fleshy projections and others look much like bird droppings.

They are small and large.

Our caterpillar is now full grown and ready for metamorphosis. (The larvae of some species like the Great spangled fritillary, may spend the winter in that stage.)

Before the Cycle of a Butterfly can continue, the caterpillar must look for a safe place to pupate and empty its body of all excrement, usually called "frass".

The digestive system is now clean and a safe spot is at hand.

As the cycle continues, a miracle seems to take place.

With its spinnerets, the caterpillar spins a silken attachment.

The caterpillar sheds its skin one last time turning into a chrysalis or pupa.

Pupae come in various colors, shapes and sizes.

Some hand upside down, others rest upright held in place by the silken girdle the caterpillar made before turning into a chrysalis.

Some hand upside down, others rest upright held in place by the silken girdle the caterpillar made before turning into a chrysalis.

In the life cycle of a butterfly, the pupa must blend in with its surroundings to minimize predation.

Some pupae are green and some are white, orange, black or brown.

It usually take one to two weeks for the pupa to develop into a butterfly.

Some species, however, such as swallowtails, pass through winter as pupae.

In spring, usually after the first rains and warmer temperatures nurture the host plants and nectar flowers that the butterflies need to survive.

These pupae complete the Life Cycle.

The adult butterfly emerges from the chrysalis to look for nourishment and a mate to reproduce and start the Life Cycle of a Butterfly over again.

Most butterflies live two to four weeks. Some like the "Spring Azure" may live for a few days while the "Mourning Cloak" may live as long as 11 months as it winters over as an adult.

Butterflies like "Monarchs" may live up to four weeks, yet the last generation of the year live as long as six to eight months as it makes the migration trip to over winter in Mexico.

Migratory butterflies continue the Life Cycle all over again next spring.

We've watched the life cycle of a butterfly go from egg, to caterpillar, to pupa and now a young butterfly.

Red Admiral Butterfly

Our butterfly emerges from the chrysalis with wet limp wings.

A Red Admiral Butterfly.

A young female stretches out her wings to let them dry and stiffen.

She is ready to fly off and face the world.

Butterflies can lay as many as 100 eggs and some species lay more. Out of the 100 eggs, a small few complete the life cycle of a butterfly.

Birds eat eggs, caterpillars, pupa and most butterflies.

Small animals eat caterpillars and pupa.

We kill off caterpillars because they are eating our plants or it may look disgusting so we flatten them.

We kill off all stages with insecticides and destruction of habitat.

Some species are indeed threatened and endangered due to loss of habitat and pesticides.

She has found a source of nectar.

Indeed, she found an ideal garden to feed and sun bathe.

She has the attention of the boys.

Yes!

She mates and the Life Cycle of a Butterfly starts all over as she looks for host plants.

Soon she will die.

The Nature of Butterflies.

Fleeting moments "Nature" shares with us.

Plant a butterfly garden and you too can watch the cycle of life.

The life cycle of a butterfly is truly a wonder to behold.

The Life Cycle of a Butterfly Begins with Reproduction

A Butterfly's Appearance

Butterfly Friendly Yard

Butterfly Flowers and Plants

Butterfly Gardens

Native Flowers

Native Shrubs

Native Trees

About Butterflies

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