Butterfly Life Cycle
No insect has captured the imagination of man as much as a butterfly. For several hundred years, small children and serious scientists have been catching them with nets, piercing them with pins, and putting them under glass. The largest collection of the Natural History Museum is dedicated to Lepidoptera – butterflies, moths and moths – and has 10 million specimens. Each of these stunning creatures tells its own story about the world around it. Collected thanks to the enthusiasm of thousands of people, they help us to better understand evolution, ecology and natural science.
The life cycle of a butterfly consists of four stages: an egg, a larva, a pupa, and an adult. Butterflies are insects with a so-called full cycle of transformations since the larva is completely different from the adult. The transition from one stage to another or transformation is called metamorphosis.
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How it works
The testicles are the first phase of insect development. The testicles must be preserved intact, so the butterflies take care of this, some lay them in the soil, others fill the testicles with secretions from the glands, which harden in the air – a capsule is obtained, the capsules are usually masked to match the color of the surface.
Another method is that insects cover the testicles with hairs or scales that are scraped off the abdomen. The female lays eggs in portions, which can contain several pieces, and can reach hundreds of eggs. Depending on the species, they are arranged in layers, in a line or in a ring around the shoot of the plant, which the caterpillars will feed on.
In some species, the female scatters eggs in flight. The development of the embryo depends on climatic conditions and can last from several days to several months, especially when the insect hibernates at the egg stage.
Larvae – caterpillars – emerge from the testicles. They actively feed, grow and accumulate substances for the next transformations.
The caterpillar has three pairs of articulated legs, armed with claws, and several (up to 5 pairs) false legs, equipped with bunches of claws, which allows it to hold well on the support. Caterpillars of diurnal butterflies are very diverse in color and external structure. They have a gnawing mouth apparatus and, for the most part, feed on the leaves of various plants.
Caterpillars grow rapidly. Gradually, the outer covers (cuticles) of the larva become too tight for her, and they need to be replaced. Molting occurs, preceded by a growth period. Most larvae have 5 or even more if the larva hibernates. Therefore, the lifespan of the larva can reach from several weeks to several months, and in woodworms even up to 2-3 years.
At the last molt, the caterpillar turns into a pupa.
The color and shape of the body of butterfly pupae are no less varied than that of caterpillars. Pupae of butterflies do not feed and do not move, they are usually attached to branches, leaves, various objects (the so-called “belted” and “hanging” pupae), or lie freely on the soil – among fallen leaves and in the soil litter.
The duration of the pupal developmental stage can vary from several weeks (in some tropical species) to nine months or more (in those living in temperate climates where winters are long). During this period, organs and tissues change and acquire the features characteristic of adults, wings and muscles are formed.
An adult butterfly (imago) quickly reaches sexual maturity and is ready to reproduce in a few days. Depending on how quickly the butterfly fulfills this main purpose, it lives from several days to several weeks. The exception is wintering butterflies, which can live for more than 10 months.