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Butterflies are considered to be the prettiest insects and belong to the order Lepidoptera. Lepidoptera is a greek term that defines the “scaly wings” of an insect which is true in the case of butterflies. These scaly patterns that are placed on the wings of butterflies in colourful designs give every butterfly a distinctive look.
Although butterflies fall under the order Lepidoptera, butterflies primarily fall under the superfamily known as Papilionoidea.
Metamorphosis in butterflies is complete metamorphosis because of its distinctive stages: the egg, the larvae (caterpillar), the pupa (Chrysalis) and the adult stage. The insect’s physical features are different in all the stages of metamorphosis.
Life Cycle of a Butterfly
1) The Egg – Stage 1:
The female butterfly lays the egg on the surface of a leaf or a stem. The egg is tiny, oval or cylindrical and varies in colour. The popular larvae form of a butterfly known as the caterpillar gradually grows inside the egg. These eggs hatch according to the favourable conditions outside, if it’s warm the eggs faster otherwise it takes a few weeks.
2) The Larva (Caterpillar) – Stage 2:
The larvae or in this case a caterpillar that hatches goes on an eating rampage. In this stage, they eat, moult and repeat that process constantly. After hatching the caterpillar is extremely hungry and eats constantly. The caterpillar eats its way out of the egg and then continues to eat plants in the outside world.
3) The Pupa (Chrysalis) – Stage 3:
The caterpillar forms a vessel around it, called the ‘pupa’. Inside the pupa, the caterpillar gradually grows and develops. During this stage, the pupa creates skins around the vessel that makes the exterior hard. The chrysalis protects the pupa till it transforms into a butterfly and breaks out of the vessel.
4) The Adult – Stage 4:
The most prominent stage known to human beings is the adult stage when the Chrysalis breaks out of the vessel with colourful scaly wings. At first, these scaly wings are folded against the body of the butterfly because of its brittle nature. Once it pumps blood into the wing the butterfly flies in search of food and other butterflies to mate with. After the mating is completed, the female butterfly lays eggs on a leaf or flat surface and the whole cycle begins all over again.
Butterflies are cold-blooded insects that require external temperatures to create body temperature. In extremely cold temperatures, the butterfly spreads its wings on a leaf, pile of mud or rocks to acquire sufficient body heat.
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Frequently Asked Questions on Butterfly Life Cycle
What is the difference between moths and butterflies?
Even though moths and butterflies fall under the same order, they differ in their characteristics. Moths are nocturnal insects while butterflies are diurnal and are active during the day. While resting, moths place their wings sideways like an air jet on halt, and the butterflies rest with their wings vertically upwards. Moth’s wings are dark and dull compared to the vibrant colourful scales on the butterfly’s wings.
How many kinds of butterflies are there in India?
There are around 20,000 species of butterflies around the world. But to name a few in India, the most common butterflies are Common Tiger (Danaus Genutia), Common Crow (Euploea core), Common Jezebel (Delias Eucharis), and Common Glass Yellow (Eurema Hecabe) and Mottled Emigrant (Catopsilia Pyranthe).
How long does a butterfly live?
The average lifespan of a butterfly is one month. Butterflies like Monarch and Morning Cloaks live for about 6 to 12 months. The life expectancy of a butterfly changes depending upon environmental factors.
Which is the largest butterfly in the world?
Queen Alexandra’s Birdwing is the biggest butterfly in the world. The wingspan measures up to 1 ft i.e., 30 cm long. It hails from the tropical rainforests of Papua New Guinea.