Butterfly Life Cycle

This website contains our experiences and research on raising butterflies, how to increase butterfly population and how to choose that butterfly.

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Welcome to  Butterfly Life Cycle  Chuck & Marsha Melvin’s Website dedicated to Butterfly Conservation and Education

butterfly life cycle

Monarch Life Cycle

This website is dedicated to butterfly education showing how to increase butterfly population. The goal is to show you how to increase butterfly population and recruit you to increase butterfly population and provide an article and pictures showing your accomplishment to be published on this website. The other goal is to develop a system for us to help each other to increase our website strength.

butterfly life cycle

Butterflies

Table clickhere Butterfly Life Cycle as Experienced by Marsha Melvin clickhere What Areas are Available for You to Increase Butterfly Population clickhere Leaders Who Can Help Increase Butterfly Populations clickhere Classroom and Home Activities clickhere YouTube Videos clickhere You Can Help Increase the Population of a Butterfly Species clickhere Butterfly Life Cycle Information clickhere Flick Attributes

butterfly life cycle

Butterfly Nectar Flowers

Areas that are Available for you to Increase Butterfly Population Increasing butterfly populations is a simple process of reclaiming butterfly habitat areas taken over by civilization. These areas include all grass yards, gardens, vacant lots, road right-of-ways,  railroad right-of-ways, and electrical line righr-of- ways. They can be rededicated to butterflies by planting butterfly plants. There are two groups of plants needed for butterfly habitats to make a come back. The two groups are host plants for butterflies to lay eggs on and caterpillars to eat and nectar plants for adult butterflies to feed on. The host plant is usually limited to just a few plants. For example, the host plant for the Monarch is milkweed. butterfly life cycle

Gulf Fritillary Butterfly

Butterfly Life Cycle Experienced by Marsha Melvin Egg – Caterpillar – Chrysalis – Butterfly The time it takes for an egg to hatch depends on the type of butterfly and also the climate. It could take from less than a week to almost three. Most of what I know about butterflies and caterpillars I learned by watching my Gulf Fritillaries. I started raising butterflies after I noticed a butterfly behaving strangely while my husband, Chuck, and I were taking a nature walk. The butterfly would flit around passion vines, land on a leaf, contort its body so that its abdomen touched the leaf, then flit off again. When I went to look at the leaf, I found the small, yellow egg she had deposited there! I brought the egg and leaf home and watched to see what would happen. I have also browsed the web (I like to call it Window shopping) to look for more information about butterflies. So, which came first, the butterfly or the egg? For purposes of this article, I’ll start with the egg.

BUTTERFLY EGGS Butterflies lay their eggs on plants that will nourish the caterpillars when they hatch (host plants). Some butterflies place their eggs on one specific plant only, while others may lay them on more than one kind of plant. Even though these are different plants, they are usually of the same family. Some butterflies lay their eggs in clusters or even on top of one another. Some butterflies lay their eggs just one to a leaf or plant. The eggs of butterflies are fascinating. I got a jeweler’s loupe (the small magnifying glass jewelers use to look at precious stones) so I could look more closely at the eggs I found. The Gulf Fritillary egg looks like a miniature ear of corn or maybe a barrel cactus (without the spines).
butterfly life cycle

Gulf Fritillary Butterfly egg and Caterpillar

EGG TO CATERPILLAR Observing a tiny grayish-green Monarch caterpillar escape from the egg can be enhanced with a jeweler’s loupe that lights and magnifies the image. I purchased mine from eBay. Three or four days after the egg is laid the caterpillar chews a whole in the egg. The tiny black head appears and the caterpillar starts struggling and escapes in several minutes.  The next surprise is the caterpillar eats its egg. It can become an obsession to see as many eggs, caterpillars, chrysalises and butterflies as you can. You are so addicted you want to photograph them all.  

butterfly life cycle

Gulf Fritillary Butterfly Caterpillar

BUTTERFLY CATERPILLAR When the tiny caterpillar hatches, the first thing it does is start to eat. It will, sometimes, even eat its egg shell! At first, it is so small, it can only eat a thin layer of the leaf. The leaf will look transparent or lacy. As it grows, though, it can munch through a leaf with no problem. To me, it looks like it is eating corn on the cob. As it eats and eats, it grows: it will outgrow its skin several times during this phase. It will continue to eat its entire caterpillar cycle except when it is changing its skin and for the last day or so before it changes into a chrysalis. When it is time to change skins, it will sit still then start to wriggle. The skin splits open at the head and the caterpillar squirms its way out. The Gulf Fritillary caterpillar is orangish with black stripes and spines, but just after it sheds its old skin, its spines are yellow until its new skin is ready. It then turns around and eats its old skin. The Gulf Fritillary caterpillar looks the same after each of its moltings, but some caterpillars change their appearance from molt to molt. When the caterpillar is ready to molt one last time and become a chrysalis, it stops eating and starts roaming around, looking for a suitable place to attach itself. It will undulate around, over and under leaves and nearby structures, natural and man-made. I provide passion vines for my ‘pillars and also branches for when they feel the urge. They will wander up, down and around for a day or two until they decide it’s time. I’ve had pillars wander off the ranch and wind up in odd places. Twice, ‘pillars have attached themselves to the pedestal base of our office chair and once, one attached itself to the drain rack next to the kitchen sink. When one of the ‘pillars get restless and start roaming, I tell my husband, “We’ve got a runner!” When it chooses the place where it will transform into a chrysalis, it will rest for a bit, then start laying down silk. It moves its head back and forth over the same spot to build up a small pad to attach itself to. It also will spin silk out to the sides (and around if it’s on a twig) to help secure the pad. When it has finished the pad, it will rest again then attach it self to the pad. It has a special appendage on the end of its body designed specifically for this purpose. It will then slowly let go of the leaf or twig and wind up handing in a distinctive “J” shape. Not all ‘pillars prepare to become a chrysalis in this fashion.

butterfly life cycle

Caterpillar to Chrysalis

CATERPILLAR TO CHRYSALIS As it hangs there, it begins to turn white, almost like it is blistering. This is its skin, detaching from the chrysalis underneath. The head of the chrysalis will break through the skin and it will begin wiggling and moving its body in waves to move the loose skin up to the place where it has attached itself. It will gyrate until it knocks the skin loose. At this point it is waxy looking until it finishing drying out. After it dries, it looks like a dead leaf hanging on a twig. My Gulf Fritillaries are in the chrysalis stage, on average, eight days. If they were out in the wild, they would be completely vulnerable to any predator as they have absolutely no defenses. They can twitch and they do change positions. One day one will be pointing to the left, and the next day it will be pointing right. When it is ready to become a butterfly, the chrysalis becomes dark and almost transparent. CHRYSALIS TO BUTTERFLY

butterfly life cycle

Monarch Butterfly Chrysalis to Butterfly

BUTTERFLY When the butterfly is ready to emerge from its chrysalis, it will break through head first, upside down and crawl up on the empty chrysalis to hang so that its wings are at the lowermost point. At this point, its antennae are laid back against its body and its wings are crumpled up. As it hangs there, its wings begin to unfold and straighten out.
 The butterfly inflates it wings with a special liquid until they are smooth and flat. It then waits for its wings to dry and harden before taking off. The antennae straighten out and stick out forward from its head. It has extra fluid in its body that it releases before it flies off. This was shocking to see the first time it happened, I thought my butterfly was injured until I researched it. Another time as I was watching a newly hatched butterfly, I thought its tongue (proboscis) looked strange. It looked as though it had two tongues. I thought we had a mutation! I later read that the butterfly’s tongue develops in two halves which come together to form the tube through which it drinks nectar. We did have one actual mutation. One of our butterflies hatched with only three wings. One of its hind wings was missing. Unfortunately, it was unable to fly. Right now we only have passion vines and honeysuckles in our yard. When we had sunflowers and zinnias growing, we had more Gulf Fritillaries and other butterflies flying around. The adult butterfly only lives about four weeks. In that time, it must feed and find a mate. The female must find passion vines to lay her eggs. I’ve noticed that our mature passion vines seem to be home to at least three different kinds of ants, and I think that’s why the female Gulf Fritillary lays her eggs on the small sucker plants that pop up around the more mature plants. Since she only lays one or two eggs per plant, the little caterpillars have a nice tender plant to munch on and can move on to the bigger plants as they grow. And so begins another cycle.
butterfly life cycle

Butterflies

Areas are Available for You to Increase Butterfly Population Increasing butterfly populations is a simple process of reclaiming butterfly habitat areas taken over by civilization. These areas include all grass yards, gardens, vacant lots, road right-of-ways and road right-of-ways. They can be rededicated to butterflies by planting butterfly plants. There are two groups of plants needed for butterfly habitats to make a come back. The two groups are host plants for butterflies to lay eggs on and caterpillars to eat and nectar plants for adult butterflies to feed on. The host plant is usually limited to just a few plants. For example, the host plant for the Monarch is milkweed. Their nectar plants are mostly milkweed and a few other flowering plants

butterfly life cycle

Butterfly Nectar Flowers

Leaders Who Can Help Increase Butterfly Populations There is a group of well-organized, dedicated professionals and their assistants who can help butterflies survive and thrive: school teachers and their students. Teachers showing their students how to grow the plants butterflies and caterpillars need for feeding and breeding is one answer to increasing butterfly populations. Another group is families with young children, especially those who are being home schooled

butterfly life cycle

Youth Planting Butterfly Plants

butterfly life cycle

Butterfly Kit

Classroom and Home Activities Introducing your young children to butterflies can be done by purchasing a Painted Lady butterfly kit. The kit can be set up and watched inside your house or in a classroom. The Painted Lady can be nurtured on a man-made mixture, so you do not need to have its host plant available. These kits are available nearly year ‘round; just enter “Painted Lady Kit” in your search engine. Ideally they should be purchased at a time of year so that when the Ladies hatch, the weather outside will not be so harsh that they can’t be released. butterfly life cycle

butterfly life cycle

Gulf Fritillary Butterfly

Dance of the Butterflies: Slow Motion Gulf Fritillaries 

Lantana bushes. This footage was filmed inside the Los Angeles Zoo, on ornamental plants along one of the pathways. The adult butterflies love to feed on the nectar-rich flowers of Lantana, while the caterpillars eat the leaves of Passion Vine. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PSKyqi9lQiw 

 

butterfly life cycle

Monarch Butterfly

The entire lifecycle of the Monarch butterfly from a tiny caterpillar hatching from an egg on a Milkweed leaf through metamorphosis to become a glorious adult butterfly. Filmed utilizing high powered microscopic cameras and time-lapse photography. Produced for the Chicago Nature Museum in Chicago, IL. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7AUeM8MbaIk

 

butterfly life cycle

Tagging Monarch Butterflies

Tagging a Monarch Butterfly Monarch butterflies in eastern North America migrate south to spend the winter on roosting grounds in Mexico. Volunteers place numbered tags on monarchs to help researchers learn more about their migration. Here’s a video of me tagging a monarch where I live in central North Carolina (in October). If it survives its journey to Mexico, it will have traveled almost 1,600 miles. This butterfly has never been there before, yet–mysteriously–it knows the way! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9jGhUAYidlE 

butterfly life cycle

Cloudless Sulphur Butterfly

 

butterfly life cycle

My computer window with Sulfur Butterfly host plant cassia tree

You Can Help Increase the Population of a Butterfly Species You Select Right in Your Own Yard or Garden You can select any butterfly present in your area to help increase their population. Select and plant their host plants in a location where you will be able to watch female butterflies laid their eggs, and then watch the caterpillars feed and grow. The female butterflies will flock to the host plant. Marsha and I decided to help Sulphur Butterflies and we planted a Cassia tree outside of the window where my computer is located, as shown to the right.To find out what butterflies live in your zip code, go to Fred Miller and Patty Bigner’s website, Gardens with Wings get a complete list of butterflies in your zip code. The website’s address is: http://www.gardenswithwings.com/. It also gives the names of the host plants on which the female butterfly will lay her eggs. You will see the list of host plants is limited, usually less than six plants. The website also shows the USDA planting zones for the host plants you select. The USDA plant hardiness website will tell you what planting zone you are located in: http://planthardiness.ars.usda.gov/PHZMWeb/ . Learning and sharing about butterflies is my daily fun at 77 years old. The Google search engine is my main source of information, the images it provides is one of the best ways to identify a butterfly or moth. A good butterfly field guide is a must. Marsha and I saw what we though was a pink butterfly. It turned out to be a month http://www.birderslounge.com/2010/07/southern-pink-moth/.

butterfly life cycle

Butterfly Life Cycle

Butterfly Life Cycle Information

. Butterflies are beautiful, flying insects with large scaly wings. Like all insects, they have six jointed legs, 3 body parts, a pair of antennae, compound eyes, and an exoskeleton. The three body parts are the head, thorax (the chest), and abdomen (the tail end). See more at http://www.enchantedlearning.com/subjects/butterfly/allabout/ 

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Did you know that monarch butterflies go through four generations each year? The first three generations hatch from their cocoon state (also known as the pupa or chrysalis state) and live for up to six weeks, but the fourth generation continues to live on for up to six or eight months so that they can migrate to a warmer climate, hibernate, and then start a new first generation in the spring time. http://www.monarch-butterfly.com/monarch-butterflies-facts.html
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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. See more at http://www.kidsbutterfly.org/life-cycle
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Metamorphosis the name for rapid transformation of a larva into an adult that occurs in some insects. The Butterfly goes through four stages to become an adult butterfly. One name for the process is metamorphosis. See more at  http://www.cocoon.org/
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The monarch butterfly is sometimes called the “milkweed butterfly” because its larvae eat the plant.  In fact, milkweed is the only thing the larvae can eat!  If you’d like to attract monarchs to your garden, you can try planting milkweed (if you live in the right area).  You can purchase milkweed seed online from See more at Butterfly Encounters http://www.kidzone.ws/ANIMALS/monarch_butterfly.htm

butterfly life cycle

Monarch Butterfly Life Cycle

From egg to adult, butterflies undergo a series of physical transformations known as metamorphosis. After mating, the female butterfly lays her eggs on a caterpillar food or “host” plant. The eggs can hatch within a few days, or within months or even years, depending on whether or not conditions are right. See more at http://www.defenders.org/butterflies/basic-facts

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The larvae of some of the some Blues, Coppers and Hairstreak butterflies produce a sugary excretion that is consumed by ants that in turn protect the larvae from predators. See more at http://home.cogeco.ca/~lunker/interesting_facts.htm
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Every butterfly or moth goes through four stages in its life. Each stage is very different from the others. The cycle is called metamorphosisSee more at http://exhibits.pacsci.org/insects/buttermoth.html.
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The cycle begins when butterflies deposit eggs in the spring, summer, or fall, depending on the species. Butterflies can lay anywhere from 200 to 1,500 eggs. Some species lay their eggs singly, some in clusters. A good nectar source is important to the adult’s ability to produce large numbers of eggs. In most cases, eggs hatch within a few days of being deposited. See more at  http://www.uri.edu/ce/factsheets/sheets/butterfly.html.
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The four developmental stages in the life cycle of the monarch butterfly are the egg, the caterpillar (larva), the pupa (chrysalis), and finally, the emergence of one of the most beautiful creatures on Earth, the butterfly. Female butterflies begin the next cycle when one small, pin head sized, white egg is laid underneath the leaf of a milkweed plant — a plant which is poisonous to most creatures. Inside the egg the caterpillar begins to develop, drawing upon the yolk material inside the egg for nutrition. After three to five days, this caterpillar eats a hole in the egg case and emerges onto the leaf surface. See more at  http://www.icr.org/article/366/.
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As most people know, butterflies have an interesting lifestyle. The female lays eggs, which hatch out into caterpillars. The role of a caterpillar is to gain body mass and all the necessary biochemical molecules it needs for life, which it does by eating, continuously eating. Most caterpillar species will eat exclusively one type of plant (which causes problems for conservation) although if they are seriously starving they will also eat other caterpillars. Once big enough the caterpillar then forms a chrysalis; a hard outer coating that surrounds the caterpillar’s innards as they rearrange themselves into a butterfly. The butterfly then hatches out of the chrysalis in a beautiful literary metaphor and staggers around until its wings are dry before flying away. See more at  http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/lab-rat/2012/06/05/butterflies/.

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