How Does a Caterpillar Turn Into a Butterfly?
The transformation of a caterpillar to a butterfly is absolutely fascinating. My children and I spend our summers raising butterflies indoors. We watch this spectacular event in the comfort of our own and share it with family and friends. So, now, let's take a look at how a caterpillar turns into a butterfly.
Butterfly Life Cycle Stages
Actually the butterfly egg comes before the caterpillar. The adult butterfly lays eggs which hatch in about 3-7 days. The young caterpillars start off eating and don't stop for 2-3 weeks. They grow tremendously during this time and will increase their body mass by a few thousand times.
Caterpillars grow so much that they will shed their exoskeleton several times. Some caterpillars actually change their appearance considerably from one molting to the next.
Once the caterpillars have grown big enough (usually about 2-3 weeks) they will be ready for their final molt, which will reveal the chrysalis. Some of the butterfly's features will start to form in their bodies as they prepare to pupate (become a chrysalis or pupa).
Chrysalis —Between Caterpillar and Butterfly
When the caterpillar is ready to shed its exoskeleton for the last time, it will find a place on a stem or branch and attach itself by spinning its own silk. Most caterpillars will hang upside down, but a few (Swallowtails) will attach alongside a stem and use a silk sling to hold themselves in place.
After the caterpillar is firmly attached, about 24 hours later it will wiggle like crazy and shed its exoskeleton revealing the chrysalis beneath. Although the chrysalis appears to be motionless, inside tremendous activity is taking place. The caterpillar's anatomy is being chemically disassembled and reconstructed into the adult butterfly. Amazing!
In about 1-2 weeks the adult butterfly will be ready to emerge.
The Butterfly Emerges From the Chrysalis
When the butterfly is ready to hatch, it will release hormones that soften the chrysalis' shell. The butterfly will push its way out of the chrysalis and cling to it with its wings hanging down.
The butterfly will be unable to fly as it pumps fluid from its body into its crumpled wings to harden them. After several hours the butterfly will be ready for its first flight. The transformation is now complete. The butterfly will mate, and the female will lay eggs thus beginning the fascinating cycle once again.