The Butterfly Art Company

                                                                              "The Flutter of Color"



The Butterfly Lifecycle

Both butterflies and moths have a life cycle consisting of four phases: the Egg, the Caterpillar or Larva, the Pupa, and finally the Adult.

The Egg Phase:

Some species lay only a single egg at a time, and others lay up to 400. Each egg can range in size from 1mm to 4mm in diameter, and vary in shape and texture. In the egg phase the egg begins to darken and if you look closely you will be able to see the caterpillar moving about inside just prior to emerging into the world. The caterpillar or larva cuts a small incision in the shell of the egg, which it then pulls its body out into the world through. In most cases it will eat its empty eggshell which provides it the necessary nutrients which it will need to survive as it locates its favorite food.

The Caterpillar Phase:

It is during this phase where the caterpillar feasts on its choice food, in some species only one or two plant types are edible. Growing and shedding its skin several times (up to 6 times) until it is fully grown and ready to begin to pupate where it will undergo a great transformation and shed its skin for the final time.

The caterpillar will attach its self to a selected branch or stem by spinning a silken pad, then attaches its tail to the pad. It next spins a loop of silk that passes around the middle of the body and is then attached to the stem to provide support. The caterpillar’s skin will then split along the back and the pupa begins to emerge by way of wriggling movements. The old skin is forced towards the tail and then released. A series of hooks on the tail are firmly attached to the silken pad and the pupa takes on its final shape.

The Pupa Phase:

It is during this stage that the caterpillar takes on the form of a great moth or butterfly, and becomes the most vulnerable to outside dangers. Just prior to emerging from the cocoon, the colors can be dimly viewed. The pupa case or cocoon splits and the butterfly begins to emerge, once it is completely free of the case it will release meconium, a waste fluid that has collected during the pupa phase. 

Did you know that a Butterfly comes from a chrysalis, where a moth emerges from a cocoon, and that a Moth uses it own silk to make its cocoon.

The Adult Phase:

It is in this stage in which a complete metamorphosis takes place, the transformation from the Pupa stage to the actual Adult stage.

The butterfly will rest with its wings hanging downward, and will expand them by forcing blood into the wings veins. This entire process must happen quickly while the butterfly wings are still damp, failure to do so would mean that the wings would dry out and harden and become useless for flight. This entire process can take up to an hour, thereby allowing the butterfly or moth to take flight to begin feeding on nectar, or other food sources such as mud, rotten fruit, dung, or sweat. It is during this stage where the adult will feed and then mate before laying eggs and starting the whole cycle over once again.

The life span of most adult butterflies or moth is 14 days or less depending upon the species.  There are some species like the Monarch and the Heliconius species that can live up to around eight (8) months.

The Monarch (Danus plexippus) butterfly migrates from the inner parts of Mexico up into all parts of North America and even as far up as Canada.  This migration takes place each year and really is an event to see, because literally hundreds of thousands of these creatures will be in flight at once.   



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Last modified: November 01, 2003