Metamorphosis: Life cycle of a butterfly

Some of the simplest processes in nature are the most beautiful to observe. Metamorphosis is one of those particular natural changes. The physical changes that some animals endure are spectacular.

In fact, the metamorphosis = metamorfosis of a butterfly is one of the most fascinating common changes in nature.

By definition, metamorphosis is the physical change or transformation in the appearance of particular animals. This physical change can also lead to adaptations to new habitats and behaviors.

Figure 1

In particular, butterflies undergo the change from

egg = huevo

caterpillar = oruga

chrysalis = crisálida

butterfly = mariposa

In certain conditions, butterflies will lay eggs on leaves of milkweed flowers or other wildflowers. In about 3-5 days, the little egg = huevo is ready to hatch. As soon as the eggs start to break, tiny small caterpillars emerge (Figure 2). Within minutes, these hairy-like worms will start to eat the shell of its egg and the leaves around it. It will spend most of its time, eating and conserving energy. And it will remain in the vicinity of where it was born.

Figure 2

The caterpillar = oruga will multiply in size very rapidly (Figure 2). It has eyes to detect only light and darkness, but it uses its tentacles as the sensory guide. It breathes through little holes called spiracles. They also produce a silky substance necessary for molting. Some caterpillars may have colorful stripes that will determine the colors in a butterfly.

Figure 3

During the molting stage, caterpillars will expel a silky skin four times. As the caterpillar comes close to the end of the molting stage, it will find a secure place to begin the next stage. At this moment, caterpillars hang in a J-shape like form (Figure 3) from a secure branch of a tree or shrub. This last expulsion of skin represents the growing caterpillar is close to the next stage: the chrysalis = crisálida.

Figure 4

During the chrysalis stage (Figure 4), the caterpillar is inside this protected housing ready for the physical change. At this part of the metamorphosis process, the chrysalis is now a pupa. Within the pupa = pupa, the wings of the butterfly, the antennas, and the proboscis are being formed.

As the pupa becomes more and more transparent in appearance, the butterfly = mariposa is ready to emerge. After 10-14 days, a beautiful butterfly is ready to spread its wings. At first, its wings are wet and will wait until they’re dry to uncurl its proboscis to drink the nectar from a nearby flower (figure 1). Then, it will spend most of its time finding a mate to continue the life cycle of the butterfly.

To learn more about butterflies, check out the Science Worksheet section and the 5 great places to find butterflies around the United States.

Barbara Mascareno

Barbara is an educational writer, teacher, and instructional designer. She loves to write K-12 education content, teaching strategies, bilingual education approaches, and foreign language.

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