Butterflies have enchanted us for over millennia; belonging to the Lepidoptera genus, there are currently more than 20,000 subspecies of butterflies, all across the world. And what makes a butterfly more interesting apart from its coloration, the various pheromones that it exudes, is its life cycle and the various stages it undergoes. It goes through four stages of development and all these stages are equally fascinating but it is time that we took a closer look at the life cycle of a butterfly.
The life cycle of a butterfly:
- The egg: All butterflies start off as an egg and given that butterflies differ from each other in size, color and shape, the eggs of these butterflies will differ as well. Some may appear large, some are quite tiny but you should be able to locate most of these eggs on the underside of leaves. The caterpillar grows inside then egg whose shape depends on the type of butterfly. Once the egg hatches, the caterpillar should emerge.
- Caterpillar: The time it takes for an egg to hatch and for the caterpillar to emerge also varies from one butterfly type to another. Typically the monarch butterfly takes about 4 to 6 days to emerge from the egg as a tiny caterpillar. Once the caterpillar emerges from the egg, it starts to eat the leaf it was born on, literally. And after it had consumed that leaf, it will turn its attention to the rest of the plant and start to bulk up. They grow at a rapid pace and often shed their skin several times as their body expands, and in the process, develop a new skin. Once it has grown to the right size, the caterpillar is all set to move onto the next stage of development.
- Pupa: Once the caterpillar has grown to the desired length, they will start to fold into themselves and would soon develop into a pupa. It may seem as if the caterpillar has gone to sleep but on the contrary, it becomes more active on the inside fast spinning a cocoon around itself. Soon the pupa takes shape and as it dries up, it becomes a hard shell protecting the butterfly from insects and other predators. Inside the pupa, the caterpillar undergoes a rapid change; its body parts get assimilated and new ones are formed. In a matter of few weeks, the short stubby caterpillar would have undergone a metamorphosis to become an adult butterfly.
- Adult butterfly: Once the metamorphosis is complete, the adult butterfly will now cut the pupa open and enter into bright sunlight. When it first emerges from the chrysalis, it would be weak and its wings would be folded against its body. It will take some time to pump fresh blood into its wings and rest its body before it takes off to explore its immediate environment.
Butterflies are indeed fascinating creatures from start to finish; they often migrate over large distances as is the case with Monarch butterflies and even adapt to certain hostile environments. They truly are a remarkable work of nature, at its very best.