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Monarch butterfly
Source: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

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Butterflies are considered by many to be the most beautiful and interesting of insects. Many people watch and collect butterflies as a hobby. One of the most distinguishing features of butterflies is their bright and colorful wings of many different patterns.

There are around 18,000 species of butterflies. They are found throughout the world and live in all sorts of habitats including grasslands, forests, and the Arctic tundra.

What is metamorphosis?

One of the most amazing things about this insect is how they change from caterpillars to butterflies. This is called metamorphosis. First the caterpillar makes a cocoon and then seals itself in the cocoon. Then special chemicals are released that change the cells of the caterpillar into that of a butterfly. It is one of the more amazing occurrences in nature! We'll describe all the different stages in the life of a butterfly below.

Stages of Life of a Butterfly

The butterfly has a very interesting life cycle that includes four stages:
  1. Egg - Butterflies are born from eggs. The eggs are attached to a leaf of a plant with a special type of glue. The butterfly egg stage usually only lasts for a couple of weeks.
  2. Larva or Caterpillar - When the butterfly egg hatches, out comes a caterpillar. Caterpillars are long multi-legged insects that make up the larva stage. They mostly eat plants.
  3. Pupa - The third stage of the butterfly lifecycle is called the Pupa. The larva (caterpillar) attaches itself to something (usually the underside of a leaf). At this point the caterpillar molts one last time and undergoes metamorphosis into a full butterfly. When the butterfly first comes out of the pupal stage it can't fly. It takes some time for the butterfly to unfold its wings so it can fly.
  4. Adult Butterfly or Imago - The final stage is the full winged flying butterfly. It is often thought that this last stage of life for a butterfly is very short. The length of life for the final stage is varied depending on the species. Some butterflies have short life spans of about a week, while others live up to a year.

Butterfly Larvae
Source: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

What does the butterfly look like?

The adult butterfly has four wings that are covered with tiny scales that give them their colorful and diverse designs. They have six legs, two antenna, a head, compound eyes, a thorax, and an abdomen. They can sense the air for nectar with their antennas. Butterflies also have fairly good eye sight.

What do they eat?

Butterflies play an important part in ecology as pollinators. Adult butterflies eat only liquids like pollen, fruit juice, and tree sap, but they mostly live off of nectar from flowers. They eat with a long tube like tongue that sucks up pollen like a straw.

Fun Facts About Butterflies

Bay Checkerspot Butterfly
Source: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

For more about insects:

Insects and Arachnids
Black Widow Spider
Praying Mantis
Stick Bug
Yellow Jacket Wasp

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