The Life Circle of a Butterfly

Butterflies

Butterflies are the most beautiful and enchanting insects in the world!

How the The Life Cycle of  a butterfly begins:  the adult male and adult female butterfly meet when flying around each other in a meadow for a short time and then land on a flower to mate.  The adult male then flies away and the adult female then finds a place to lay her eggs.  The female curves her long body in the direction of the leaf and lays her very tiny eggs on the leaf (usually in the spring). The eggs are made of a sticky substance so they won't roll away or fall off the leave.

Around five to six days later the larva (young stage) is then developed enough inside the egg to eat its way out and this can take several hours. The caterpillar will first feed on it's egg and then moves on to eat from the plant on which it was born.

The caterpillar is growing quickly, the more it eats the bigger it gets.  Eventually it will shed from its first skin and grow a bigger skin.. There is no time for sleep as it only has a few weeks to store as much energy as needed to change into a butterfly.

It is now time for the the caterpillar (larva) to then make a chrysalis (for butterflies) or a cocoon (for moths).  The caterpillar must find a sturdy branch and spin some sticky silk threads to help it become secure and hang onto the branch. It spins some thread around its middle section (called the belt) and produces a patch of coiled thread at its tail end (called the pillow).  It's skin will be shed for the last time and a shell will form underneath its shed skin.  This shell hardens into a protective case which is the chrysalis.  The caterpillar turns into a soft, squidy jelly like blob.

 After a few weeks the caterpillar is changing into the body of the beautiful butterfly.  When the chrysalis turns clear it is time for the butterfly to break free by pushing to split the chrysalis.  It is is ready for its first flight.

Once it breaks out its wings are wet and crumpled.  The butterfly then pumps blood into its wings to help them to dry out and to expand.  This stage does not take long at all.  Once its wings are dry the butterfly is ready to fly away and search for flowers for food.   Not all butterflies hatch out of their chrysalis right away, some spend the winter months inside and hatch out in the springtime. Most butterflies have a short life (about a month) so it must find a mate quickly to start the life cycle all over again.  

There are several butterflies that have longer lives (up to nine months). For these , when winter arrives, they will hibernate by finding a safe shelter in a shed, in a house or behind a plant (and go to sleep). When the warm weather returns they will become active again. Butterflies use the sun to elevate their body temperature. The adult will eventually return to the plant or tree where it hatched and will lay its own eggs to continue this reproduction (life-cycle) all over again.

Have a good look around your garden this summer to see how many different butterflies you can spot.  Enjoy their beauty and remember to be very gentle if you handle any as they are very fragile.

 

Body structutre of a Butterfly

 

An illustration of the general structure of an insect wing showing