The Life Cycle
The life span of an adult butterfly or moth is amazingly short. A few adults live as long as 18 months, while most last no m ore than two weeks. Each of them, though, goes through the biggest change known to nature. Their metamorphosis from a caterpillar into an adult is a miracle to behold!
- All butterflies and moths start off as eggs. Some of the tiniest eggs are smaller than a millimeter and almost all are yellow or green. Female butterflies tend to lay eggs on plants that their caterpillars will find tasty. Some eggs hatch in a few days, while others take months.
- The first thing a caterpillar (or larva) does when it hatches is eat-and and eat. It often eats its own eggshell and then begins to eat the plant it was laid om. Caterpillars must molt, or shed their skin, in order to grow. Most do this four or five times over a period that lasts at least two weeks.
- A Fully grown caterpillar find a safe place to pupate (change into a pupa, or chrysalis). Some caterpillars spin cocoons of silken threads in which they pupate.
- Inside, the creature is undergoing amazing chemical changes and gradually the adult butterfly or moth emerges
- When metamorphosis is complete, the adult butterfly or moth breaks out of its pupa shell or cocoon. Its wings and body are still soft, so it pumps blood into its newly formed wings. Within about half an hour, the exoskeleton hardens and the wings become rigid. The new adult’s task is to find a mate.
In one day, a caterpillar can eat many times its weight in food. Most of the food is stored as fat for later stages of life, such as the metamorphosis from caterpillar to adult. During that time, the butterfly or moth can’t eat