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Butterflies

Life Cycle

Click on the images to print/download full sized images to colour or use in an electronic paint program
As advanced insects, butterflies and moths have a "complete" life cycle. This means that there are four separate stages, each of which looks completely different and serves a different purpose in the life of the insect.

The egg

is a tiny round, oval, or cylindrical object, usually with fine ribs and other microscopic structures. The female attaches the egg to leaves, stems, or other objects, usually on or near the intended caterpillar food.

The caterpillar (or larva)

is the long worm-like stage of the butterfly or moth. It often has an interesting pattern of stripes or patches, and may have spine-like hairs. It is the feeding and growth stage. As it grows, it sheds its skin four or more times so as to enclose its rapidly growing body.

The chrysalis (or pupa)

is the transformation stage within which the caterpillar tissues are broken down and the adult insect's structures are formed. The chrysalis of most species is brown or green and blends into the background. Many species overwinter in this stage.

The adult (or imago)

is the colourful butterfly or we usually see. It is the reproductive and mobile stage for the species. The adults undergo courtship, mating, and egg-laying. The adult butterfly or moth is also the stage that migrates or colonizes new habitats. (Note: The adult butterfly pictured here is a Swallowtail, not a Monarch).

How Can I Raise A Caterpillar?

To raise a caterpillar through the chrysalis or pupa to the adult moth or butterfly is an excellent lesson about insect metamorphosis. All you need is a caterpillar, some of its favoured food, and a suitable container. You can find caterpillars on most plants during the spring and early summer. Put the caterpillar and a few fresh leaves in a widemouth jar or plastic shoebox. Cover the jar mouth with netting or a piece of nylon. Every day change the leaves and provide dry paper towels to help prevent mold. You can put in pencil-size twigs upon which the caterpillar can attach its chrysalis or silken cocoon (with the pupa inside). The insect will hatch in 10-14 days, if it does not overwinter. Before releasing it you can photograph your prize. Don't be disappointed if small wasps or flies--natural parasites--hatch out instead. These insects keep the butterfly and moth populations under natural control.

Material on this page is reproduced with the kind permission of Paul Opler and the The Childrens Butterfly Site

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