There are many documentaries and nature reports that have captured the amazing images of the life cycle of a butterfly, thus showing one of the most magical events in nature. Although the most complex and curious step is the one commonly known as the metamorphosis process, the cycle of a butterfly gathers numerous characteristics and incredible details that undoubtedly do not go unnoticed by those who observe them. The steps of the cycle have very specific characteristics, as well as certain durations, being sometimes really ephemeral, as in the case of the butterfly that lives 1 day, belonging to the group of ephemeroptera.
Stages of the life cycle of a butterfly
The surprising process of metamorphosis carried out by each and every one of the numerous species of butterflies that exist on the planet is characterized by following specific phases, commonly known as stages of the life cycle of a butterfly . Within each of these stages, the characteristics of butterflies change astonishingly, both physiologically and their eating habits and ways of life. In the following list we offer a summary of the butterfly cycle and a diagram , the stages of which we will see in detail, one by one, in the next sections.
- Larva in arms.
- Adult stage.
First phase of the butterfly cycle: the egg
How is a butterfly born? As in other species of oviparous animals , butterflies lay their fertilized eggs, from which a new individual will later be born. Generally, they deposit their eggs under leaves and other plant surfaces, to protect them from possible predators and adverse weather conditions.
The butterfly egg fulfills the important function of feeding the new individual, so that, when it completes its development, it comes out through a small hole in the egg and at this stage it feeds on the remains of this protein-rich structure. Each female butterfly is capable of depositing up to hundreds of eggs, some of which will survive and move on to their next step in the butterfly cycle.
The famous silkworms ( Bombyx mori ) and the abundant caterpillars of the cabbage butterfly ( Pieris brassicae ) that fill the fields with life in spring are examples of butterflies in their larval stage .
During this period, butterfly larvae need to nourish themselves and get enough energy to be able to continue growing and developing. But what do butterflies eat during their larval stage? They mainly feed on leaves and all kinds of flowers, which they ingest continuously to increase their size.
As a consequence of their constant growth and development, caterpillars are forced to shed their skins up to five times. This shedding of the skin also serves as food for the caterpillar, while in its last shedding, it will use its old skin to weave a mesh-like structure which will serve to place itself underneath and remain suspended from a leaf, branch or other. appropriate plant structure. Once placed together with the mesh that he has prepared to hold, he adopts with his body a curious and characteristic curve in the shape of a “J”. This is the clue that determines that the larva is ready to move on to the next phase of its life cycle: the surprising formation of the pupa.
The pupa or chrysalis is the structure that remains after falling off the skin that the caterpillar had used to create the mesh that allowed it to stay hanging. Within the structure of the pupa, also known as the cocoon of the butterfly , the animal remains covered and at rest, lacking any movement and without having eyes or antennae. Everything is ready for the amazing metamorphosis to take place that allows the caterpillar to modify its physical appearance and acquire a new size with each and every one of the characteristics of butterflies in their final adult stage. Here you can learn more about what is metamorphosis .
Regarding how long it takes for a butterfly to emerge from the chrysalis , the answer varies according to the butterfly species. For example, for the famous monarch butterfly ( Danaus plexippus ), the pupal stage can last up to a week.
After completing the complex pupal stage and completing its development, the adult butterflies gradually break the chrysalis and go outside. They are not yet ready to fly with their amazing new wings, as they have a wrinkled consistency. The new adult butterflies need to receive energy and body fluid that flows through the veins of their wings, until they acquire the size and rigidity necessary to be able to beat them and start their precious flights.
At the time of their first flight, adult butterflies begin their search for food to continue meeting their nutritional and energy needs. In this new stage, the butterflies’ diet is based on the nectar of the flowers , which they acquire thanks to their elongated and sophisticated spirit (scientific name given to the butterfly’s tongue ).
Thus, from flower to flower to feed themselves and filling the terrestrial ecosystems in which they inhabit with color with their delicate wings, adult butterflies continue to develop until the moment of reproduction. Thus, being the reproduction of butterflies of a sexual nature, adults complete their life cycle with the creation of new eggs from which new individuals will be born that will go through the stages that we have been seeing throughout the article.