Life Cycle of a Butterfly

Emerging monarchThe butterflies’ cycle of life is very different from the rest of nature. The butterfly’s lifecycle has four stages; which include Egg, Larva (caterpillar), Pupa (cocoon), and Adult. Butterflies are important to nature because they are an agent of pollination. This means they pollinate flowers, which happens when pollen grains are transferred from the male to the female part of the flower.


Butterfly eggs consist of a hard outer shell; the outer shell has wax on the inside to prevent it from getting too dry. These eggs are usually affixed to a plant leaf with glue that quickly hardens. The egg stage lasts for a few weeks.


During the larva stage the caterpillar consumes plant leaves, finding and consuming the plant leaves is how the caterpillar spends most of its time. Many caterpillars have markings on their rear end that look like eyes. This along with ability to produce chemicals that smell or are toxic offers defense from birds and other predators.


This is the stage in which the caterpillar searches for a desirable location in which to turn itself from larva into a pupa (cocoon). The caterpillar will attach itself to a branch or limb and molt for the last time. Metamorphosis takes place and a butterfly emerges at the end of this cycle.

Adult Butterfly

Adult Butterflies are not able to fly until their wings gain blood circulation and completely unfold; this usually takes 1-3 hours depending on the type of butterfly. Without a net or other type of protection they are very vulnerable while waiting for their wings to function. The adult is known as the imago, as an adult the butterfly gains the ability to reproduce. The adult butterfly has 4 wings and 6 legs.

Learning Activity for Children

Butterflies are fascinating for children because of their beauty and the simple fact that they fly. Rarely can a book teach a child the stages of a butterfly’s life cycle better than simply experiencing it. Raising butterflies through their life cycle is a fun educational activity for children. To successfully raise butterflies through their life cycle, you will need:

  • Painted Lady Caterpillars with food.
  • Vials and lids
  • And a two foot hanging butterfly net

Where you can get Butterfly Supplies

Heath Scientific provides these supplies along with complete instructions in a Live Butterfly Classroom Kit . Though designed for the classroom, it is a great activity for parents and children of all ages.
Other butterfly supplies are:

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