Some types of butterflies have a lifespan of 2 weeks or less. Others like the Monarch are migratory and will live for many months. Most butterflies will lay several hundred eggs in their adult stage of their life cycle.
The Egg: Butterfly eggs are tiny, usually 1-3 mm and can be found on the host plant of the butterfly. The caterpillar usually hatches out of the egg in less than a week.
The Caterpillar: The purpose of a caterpillar is to eat and grow. It’s body mass will increase thousands of times. Caterpillars grow so much that most caterpillars will molt 4 or 5 times as they outgrow their exoskeleton. After about 2-3 weeks of doing nothing but eating, growing and molting, they will be ready to pupate and become a chrysalis.
The Chrysalis: I never fail to be amazed at how a caterpillar can become a butterfly in less than two weeks. This is an amazing stage in the butterfly’s life cycle. When the caterpillar is ready to pupate it will spin silk and attach itself to a surface and stay very still for about 24 hours. Then it sheds it’s exoskeleton for the final time revealing the pupa or chrysalis. Out of this will emerge the adult butterfly.
The Adult Butterfly: When the adult butterfly emerges its wings will be crumpled. The butterfly will be unable to fly and will have to “hang” its wings for a few hours to allow them to dry. During this time the butterfly pumps its wings full of fluid from its body to make the wings rigid. After several hours the butterfly will be ready for its first flight.
An adult the butterfly will seek and find a mate then the female butterfly will start laying her eggs on her specific host plants and the butterfly’s life cycle will begin anew.