Butterfly Life Cycle – With Facts & Pictures

Butterflies are some of the most hypnotizing and fascinating insects in the world. You rarely get to see another creature capable of mixing the ugly with the beautiful as effective as the butterfly does. Everything about this insect revolves around mixing aspects from different ends of the spectrum.

They are beautiful as adults but come from caterpillars, their wings can reflect works of art, yet their diet is disgusting, etc. The butterfly’s life cycle is probably the most compelling aspect in this regard – truly a tale of the beauty and the beast living in one body.

Today, we will discuss the butterfly’s life cycle from egg to adulthood, hoping to shed some light into this insect’s amazing world.

Egg Stage

The female butterfly will lay approximately 300-400 eggs at once in the wild. In captivity, they can even boost that number to 500-700 thanks to the improved environmental conditions. The eggs appear like tiny pellets, barely noticeable on the surface of leaves or branches.

They are somewhat similar to fish eggs but without that specific goo holding them together. The amazing aspect is that, upon a closer look, you can actually see the caterpillars inside, moving and growing. The growth process is fast since eggs will hatch around 4 days later.

You will then have a lot of swarming caterpillars spreading all over the place and immediately starting to feed. Caterpillars tend to consume food non-stop, which is why butterfly females will lay the eggs as close as possible to a food source.

Caterpillar (Larva)

The caterpillar is the second phase which usually lasts between 2 to 5 weeks. This stage’s duration will vary depending on several factors, some of which include the food available and the species the caterpillar belongs to.

Essentially, the larva represents the most dangerous phase in a butterfly’s life. That’s because the larva is slow, it doesn’t have any potent defense mechanisms, and it has a lot of predators around. For this reason, its core goal is to eat as much as it can as fast as possible. The faster it grows and turn into a pupa, the more it will minimize the risks of confronting potential predators with fatal consequences.

For this reason, the caterpillar will spend all of its time eating. A behavior that can lead it to grow 100 times its birth size. The caterpillar will generally undergo 4 molting phases during that time, shedding its skin to make room for the bigger body.

Pupa (Chrysalis)

The pupa is the second to last phase in the metamorphosis process before the adult comes out. This phase consists of the caterpillar building a cocoon around it and beginning the transformation process. This phase will last between 5 to 21 days, depending on the butterfly species.

This is where the magic happens, as the ugly and dull caterpillar undergoes the metamorphosis process and turns into the beautiful butterfly. Everything will change about the caterpillar, including its tissues, internal organs, and limbs. It is a transformative process that will give birth to one of the most elegant creatures on the face of the Earth.

Adult Butterfly

The adult butterfly is also known as the reproductive stage. That’s because only adult butterflies can reproduce and lay eggs for the next generation to begin. A butterfly’s lifespan will always depend on the species it belongs to, the area where it’s born, the available resources, environmental conditions, the butterfly’s size, etc.

On average, your typical butterfly will leave 2 to 4 weeks. Things begin to vary dramatically as we move from the center and we look into the extremes. Some butterflies will live several days to a week, like the little ones you see flying around your back yard. Others will reach the other end of the spectrum.

The Monarch, for instance, has a lifespan of around 9 months, while the Painted Lady can reach 12 months.

When it comes to feeding, things also vary since some species of butterflies still eat as adults while others don’t. Obviously, those who don’t eat tend to live less than the others and focus exclusively on mating. Unlike caterpillars, butterflies can’t chew their food. Instead, they need to rely on their prolonged protrusion to suck various fluids from various sources.

While some butterflies consume flower nectar, others will feed on tree sap, rotting animal carcasses, or anything sweet and liquid.

The adult’s primary goal, however, is mating. Everything has prepared them for this, including their colorful wings, antennae, and instincts. The male butterfly will sense female pheromones from miles away and rush to the target as fast as possible. Males will compete for the chance to reproduce and will die soon after the process is complete.

The female will also die after laying its eggs, marking the end of one cycle and the beginning of another.


Butterflies are fascinating creatures with an even more fascinating life cycle. There are over 17,500 butterfly species around the world, and they all vary in terms of appearance, size, diet, or behavior. Learning about each species, in particular, is essential if you’re getting ready to become a breeder or a collector.

The butterfly breeding business comes with extensive information on every aspect you might be interested in. If you want additional information about butterflies in general or a specific species in particular, comment below or fill the contact form, and I will reply as soon as possible.

Butterflies   Updated: August 27, 2021
avatar Welcome to Insectic, a blog to learn about insects and bugs. I'm Richard, and I've created this website to share my experience, knowledge, and passion with others.

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