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The Butterfly Life Cycle

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The life cycle of the butterfly is one of the most amazing transformations that occurs in nature. It's fascinating to watch, which makes it a wonderful educational opportunity for kids and adults alike.

Butterflies go through four major stages of metamorphosis: egg, caterpillar, chrysalis and adult.

Stage 1: Egg

Butterfly Life Cycle: Egg

The first stage of a butterfly's life is a very small oval, round, or cylindrical egg, depending on the species of butterfly. They range in size from a period at the end of a sentence to the tip of a pencil. Looking closely, it is sometimes possible to see the caterpillar growing inside. Butterfly eggs are most often found on the leaves of plants. The mother uses a glue-like substance to "stick" the egg to the leaf. The egg has a small, funnel-shaped opening to allow for water and air. It also contains enough nutrients for the caterpillar to grow inside.

Stage 2: Caterpillar

Butterfly Life Cycle: Caterpillar

When the egg hatches, a "larva" or "caterpillar" emerges. The caterpillar must eat the leaf upon which the egg has been laid, so it is vital that the mother has chosen to lay her eggs on the right kind of leaf. Monarchs, for example, must lay eggs on plants of the milkweed family.

Caterpillars must grow quickly, so they eat continually. As they expand, their exoskelton does not stretch, so they shed their skin several times during the growth stage.

Stage 3: Pupa

Butterfly Life Cycle: Pupa or Chrysalis

When the caterpillar has reach its full size, they form into a "chrysalis", or "pupa". The transformation over time looks like a change from a resting caterpillar to a shell-like covering, Inside, the body is undergoing an incredible cellular transformation, or "metamorphosis". The parts we recognize as a butterfly are beginning to form. The transformation consumes so much energy that the pupa loses more than half of its original weight. The limbs and organs have all transformed by the time the pupa is ready to emerge as a beautiful butterfly. The time a butterfly spends in the pupa stage varies greatly per species, ranging from a few days to a year!

Stage 4: Adult

Butterfly Life Cycle: Adult

The adult butterfly emerges from the chrysalis with its soft wings folded about its body. The wings are crinkled and if you're observing this with a butterfly kit at home, your first reaction will be one of extreme worry! But fret not - after a rest period, the butterfly pumps blood into its wings over a period of a few hours and they grow to their full length. After that, they begin to fly and search for a mate. Adult butterflies are constantly seeking to reproduce, and a fertilized female will find the proper type of leaf to lay eggs on and start the life cycle over again.

Awesome Monarch Metamorphosis Educational Toy

If you're looking for an amazing educational tool for teaching butterfly metamorphosis, we just have to introduce you to the Monarch Butterfly Life Cycle Puppet by Folkmanis! Folkmanis is known for their very high-end puppets and plush toys. This awesome treasure reverses in on itself to take the shape of a monarch caterpillar, chrysalis and adult butterfly! In all, it measures about 12" x 24" so it's a nice size. Kids will love playing with it. Click here to view the Monarch Butterfly Life Cycle Puppet.
Here's a video showing how it unfolds:

Live Butterfly Kits

Want to get up close and personal with the butterfly life cycle? A wonderful way to learn more about it first-hand is to purchase a live butterfly kit. It's a wonderful educational opportunity for all ages! Learn how to choose the best butterfly kit.

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