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A butterfly fluttering by is one of the prettiest sights in nature, but did you know that the flying adult form of the butterfly is only one stage in this amazing animal’s life cycle? Let’s look at the stages that butterflies go through.


Egg – Adult butterfly mothers look for specific plants to lay their tiny eggs on.  They use a special glue to stick their eggs to plants that their babies will be able to eat when they are ready to hatch.

Larva (Caterpillar) – The soft and delicate larvae that hatch from butterfly eggs are known as caterpillars.  They are usually multi-colored or camouflaged, and many caterpillars are hairy, since the hairs can protect them from other insects and some birds that might want to eat them.  Caterpillars spend almost all of their time eating, and they also can shed their skins, just like snakes, many times during this stage which can last for a few weeks or months.

Pupa (Chrysalis) – When a caterpillar is ready, it finds a hidden place, usually on the underside a leaf, to stick itself to and cover itself with a hard shell.  Inside, it begins to grow and change.  During this stage, it is called a chrysalis.  The chrysalis starts to grow all of the parts that we recognize on butterflies, like wings, legs, and a long mouth.  Again, this stage may last a few weeks or months.

Adult Butterfly (Imago) – Finally, the adult butterfly emerges from its hard casing and starts to fly.  In this stage, the adult (also called an imago) has a long mouth called a proboscis used to suck up food like flower nectar.  It also has light and fragile wings which allow it to move around and mate so that the cycle can begin again.

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