The Life Cycle of the Butterfly

Maria Cristina Galindo
Woodrow Wilson Elementary School
Preschool Program for Children with Disabilities:


Butterflies are insects that have the most variety of colors and shapes. Many people like to watch and study the interesting life cycle of the butterfly. Butterfly wings are covered with overlapping scales. These tiny scales give butterflies their brilliant colors.

Butterflies belong to the insect order of Lepidoptera, which means "scaly wings." A butterfly's body is divided into three sections:

Butterflies go through different stages until they reach adulthood. This process of changing forms is called metamorphosis, which means "changing form."




The life cycle of a butterfly:

  1. The first stage is called the egg stage. The mother butterfly lays eggs on a leaf.
  2. In the larva stage, the egg hatches on the leaf and out comes a caterpillar.
  3. In the pupa stage the caterpillar grows and it pops out of its old skin, already wearing a new one. This phenomenon occurs four or five times, after which the caterpillar begins to produce silk. With this silk, it attaches its body to a leaf or twig (or in our experiment, to a plastic cap). It then sheds its furry skin for the last time. Under the skin is a hard form called chrysalis. The caterpillar's body turns to a soft liquid, from which the wings, legs and other body parts of the butterfly will form.
  4. The adult stage is also called the
  5. Imago
  6. . The Imago stage begins when the chrysallis is broken and the butterfly breaks out of the cocoon.

  1. Although the egg stage is the first part of the growth of the butterfly, I will suggest that instead of using a real experience which is hard to find and recognize with your natural eyes you could show the students a picture using the internet link of the egg stage 
  2. Put the small caterpillars in the small plastic containers with fresh leaves and place the lid on the containers. The caterpillars do not actually need a large amount of oxygen to survive. Keep the caterpillars in a place where they will not be exposed to heat or to direct sunlight.
  3. Feed the caterpillars every day with fresh leaves. If the caterpillars were taken from a certain type of tree, e.g. maple tree, then leaves from that tree should be used.
  4. After 4 to 5 days you will notice that the caterpillars have grown and it is time for them to crawl to the top of the container, where they will attach themselves to the lid, with their heads down. At this point, the caterpillars should not be moved or disturbed and the container should be kept closed and still. The caterpillars could be easily contaminated through contact with human breath or human skin.
  5. Soon you will notice that the larvas have lost the original furry coats and they are now wrapped in a clear coat. At this time, very carefully open the lid and gently remove it to place it in a bigger container, such as a fish bowl or a cake box. Leave the larvae attached to the lids. Place the lids in a vertical position, taping them to the walls of the container with masking tape. This will help the butterfly emerge from the cocoon without touching the red fluid that is released when upon emerging from the cocoon (Don't worry, this fluid is not blood). Otherwise, the emerging butterfly might get its wings stuck in the fluid, which can damage the wings. Make sure to use the cheese cloth to cover the container if you are using a fishing bowl, otherwise your butterfly will fly out of it.
  6. It is very important that you feed the butterflies. Feed them by placing a flower inside the container. I recommend using carnations. If you are using a silk flower, then dip it in the following solution:
    • 2 cups water
    • 1 teaspoon of sugar
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This lesson was developed through GirlTECH '97, a teacher training and student technology council program sponsored by the Center for Research on Parallel Computation (CRPC) a National Science Foundation Science and Technology Center. © June 1997 Maria Cristina Galindo