Ever wondered how a wiggly little caterpillar blossoms into a colorful fluttering butterfly? Butterflies normally go through complete metamorphosis and the entire lifecycle is divided into four distinct stages. A butterfly has to go through each of these four stages called the egg, larva, pupa and adult, where each lifecycle phase has a particular purpose or goal. Based on the species of the butterfly, the metamorphosis may span anywhere from 30 days to an entire year!
THE FIRST STAGE: THE EGG
The initial form of a butterfly is a tiny spherical or cylindrical egg lying on the surface of a leaf. If you peer closer, you’ll notice a small caterpillar or a tiny larva growing inside it. The shape of the egg normally depends on the specific type of butterfly that laid it and can range from basic oval to round and even ribbed figures. Most of these eggs can be found on the leaves of outdoor plants and garden plantation.
THE SECOND STAGE: THE LARVA (CATERPILLAR)
Don’t expect a butterfly to pop out right away as soon as the egg hatches. In the second stage, the egg transforms into a butterfly larva known as the caterpillar. The caterpillar is the star of this stage, and its role is to eat the leaf it was born onto. The type of leaf consumed depends on the type of caterpillar. The tiny, stubby thing cannot move onto to a new plant and so has to hatch on the kind of leaf it likes to eat. This is the basic goal of the larva stage, which prepares the caterpillar for the next phase in the metamorphosis.
THE THIRD STAGE: PUPA/CHRYSALIS
The pupa or chrysalis phase is the core transformational stage for the lifecycle of a butterfly. Once the caterpillar has grown into the required size, the tissues are broken down and the limbs and organs are shaped into a pupa, also referred to as a chrysalis. If you look at the outer part of the pupa, you’ll feel as if the caterpillar is just taking a rest but it is in fact growing and transforming inside the chrysalis. Within the pupa, the caterpillar undergoes remarkable physical and structural changes to develop the exquisite parts of a butterfly. By the time the pupa is complete, the transformed caterpillar is all ready for the fourth and final stage of the life cycle.
THE FINAL STAGE: ADULT BUTTERFLY
This stage features the emergence of the adult butterfly from the pupa once the caterpillar has undergone full transformation and all necessary changes to its form are complete. As soon as the butterfly comes out of the chrysalis, you’ll notice its wings are a bit soft and aligned towards its body. The folded wings with a gentle feel to them are so because the butterfly has to fit all the body parts inside the pupa while the metamorphosis is in process. As soon as the butterfly has rested after moving out of the chrysalis, it goes to work by pumping blood into the new wings which need to flap so it can fly. It takes the butterfly 3 to 4 hours to develop flying expertise after which it is ready to reproduce and lay some eggs.
You can enjoy watching a butterfly grow out of a tiny caterpillar if you have your own butterfly garden or try using any of the cool butterfly raising kits to see this incredible process for yourself.