A Monarch Butterfly Emerging from Its Chrysalis – A Time Lapse

The life cycle of a butterfly involves four stages – egg, larva, pupa, and adult. These stages are a part of a process known as metamorphosis. In Greek, the word metamorphosis means transformation or a change in shape.

Many insects show the process of metamorphosis. However, metamorphosis itself is of two types: incomplete metamorphosis and complete metamorphosis. In incomplete metamorphosis, the only difference seen between the younger stages and the adult stage is the presence of wings. In complete metamorphosis, there are large differences seen, especially in the food eaten by adults.

Incomplete metamorphosis is seen in grasshoppers, crickets, dragonflies, and cockroaches, whereas complete metamorphosis is seen in butterflies, moths, beetles, flies, and bees. The four stages in the life cycle of a butterfly are seen because of this process!

The first stage – the egg – of a butterfly, arises when adult female butterflies lay eggs on plants. Once the eggs hatch, the larvae or caterpillars feed on these plants. Depending on the species of butterfly, eggs may be laid by adult female butterflies in any season. Female butterflies lay eggs in large numbers to improve the chances of survival.

The next stage of a butterfly’s life cycle is known as the larva or caterpillar stage. At the caterpillar stage, food is consumed to such a large extent that they can increase 100 times in size. As caterpillars eat in large amounts, they shed their skin about four to five times. This process is known as molting. Food eaten by the caterpillar at this stage is stored for use later, at the adult stage.

When the caterpillar grows fully, it stops eating and transitions to the pupa stage. In the butterfly, a pupa is also known as a chrysalis. As per the species of butterfly, the pupa may be formed under a branch, under leaves of trees, or may even be buried underground. The pupa stage may last for few weeks, a month, or even longer depending on the species of butterfly.

Although nothing is visible from the outside, many changes happen on the inside of the pupa. For example, special cells divide quickly to eventually form legs, wings, eyes, and other parts of the adult butterfly. Many of the larval cells also give energy for these special cells.

Finally, the adult butterfly emerges from the chrysalis! At the adult stage, the butterflies are ready to mate again. After female butterflies lay eggs, the cycle of a butterfly repeats again. Watch this video of a time-lapse of an adult butterfly emerging from the chrysalis!

Flesch Kincaid Grade Level: 8.6

Flesch Kincaid Reading Ease: 59.4

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