The Life Cycle Of The Butterfly: Photos And Video

The Offcial Butterfly of Florida, the Zebra Longwing

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Our Interest in the Butterfly

Can the butterfly fly as soon as it leaves the cocoon? That and many other questions will be answered as we explore the life cycle of the butterfly.

I live in Southern Florida where the climate is mild most of the year. I am able to grow flowers of all kinds year round. When my Grandchildren come to visit, they like to walk among the flowers. I try to teach them the different plants, and hope they will learn to appreciate the beauty of nature. After watching the beautiful butterflies hovering over some of the Pentas and the Butterfly Bushes, they asked me to tell them about the life cycle of the Butterfly, and I had to admit I have just always taken them for granted. They have always been in my yard fluttering around. I admire their beauty very much.

So, we set out to study the Butterfly. Do you think insects are beautiful? Some insects are pretty scary looking, like spiders. There is one insect that everyone thinks is very beautiful, that insect is the Butterfly. I never thought of the Butterfly as being an insect, but it is.

Butterflies live in warm climates. They feed on nectar from the flowers. There are plants that we can grow in our yards to attract these beautiful insects. One popular plant is called the Butterfly Bush, but they seem to like any red flower. We see them flying around our yard without giving too much thought to how they got there. Not only is the butterfly beautiful, but it is a subject worthy of study. The butterfly belongs to a group of insects calledLepidoptera. Lepidus means scales, and ptera means wings. When we think of scales, we think of fish, but the scales on a butterfly are very soft and delicate. If you touch a butterfly, the scales will come off like fine powder on your hand.

The caterpillar eventually weaves a silky cocoon (pupa) around itself for protection, and the Butterfly begins to develop inside the cocoon. The next time you see a cocoon hanging underneath a leaf on a plant, remember that a butterfly will soon emerge from the cocoon, and fly out into the world. When the butterfly first come out of it’s cocoon, the wings are soft and moist. Soon, the wings expand and harden so the butterfly will be able to fly.

A good way to study butterflies is to take a caterpillar and carefully place it in a glass jar with a metal lid that you have made air holes in the top. Use a stick to gently remove the caterpillar. Place some leaves of the same plant that you found the caterpillar on the inside of the jar. Add a few drops of water. Every day, place fresh leaves and water inside the jar. You can actually see the caterpillar weave it’s delicate cocoon. When you notice movement within the cocoon, you’ll know that soon the butterfly will emerge. As soon as his wings have dried, he is ready to be released into the world. This process usually takes two weeks, depending on the species of the Butterfly.


Video of a Monarch from start to finish

The Four Stages of the Butterfly


The butterfly goes through four distinct stages before finally appearing as one of nature’s most colorful, delicate creatures. The four stages are: egg, caterpillar (larva), cocoon (pupa), also called the Chrysalis, and finally the adult butterfly.

In the first stage, a mature butterfly lays her tiny, sticky egg on the leaf of a plant. The egg is sticky so it can’t fall off the leaf. If you can imagine, the egg is the size of the head of a straight pin. The eggs are protected by a hard-ridged outer layer of shell called the Chorion. This egg will soon become a caterpillar. It is hard to imagine this green caterpillar with it’s brightly marked, bold pattern will soon become a butterfly! Some of these caterpillars can be up to six inches long. Not all caterpillars are butterfly larvae. Some belong to the moth family. One caterpillar to avoid is the Saddleback Moth. He is green and has what looks to be a brown saddle on his back. If you touch him, you will feel a painful sting!


Magnified image of a Butterfly Egg

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The Caterpillar

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Gulf Fritillary Chrysalis, Georgetown, S.C.

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A Monarch Butterfly

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A Brand New Monarch Drying Its Wings On The Blue Orchid

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There are many butterfly gardens around the country. These are beautiful places to visit. Once inside the garden, you will see butterflies flying around the plants that have been placed there for them. They may stop and rest on your shoulder if you are still. These gardens have an exhibit so you can actually see each stage of the butterfly’s creation. It is such a thrill to see a cocoon begin to move, and then you see an opening in the cocoon. The final thrill will come when the butterfly emerges and flies out to join the others in the garden.



My Grandchildren and I have visited many Butterfly Gardens. We have watched these beautiful insects evolve through each stage by placing caterpillars in a jar and just observing them. We are always thrilled to see the magnificent insect begin life. I would encourage parents and grandparents alike to help children understand more about the beautiful Butterfly.


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Comments 45 comments

mary hixon 5 years ago

mary the chrysalis you have pictured here isn't the monarch chrysalis.just sayin'-


mary615 profile image

mary615 5 years ago from Florida Author

Thanks, Mary. You're the expert when it comes to butterflies. I need to research that more,I guess.


mary615 profile image

mary615 5 years ago from Florida Author

The name of this Chrysalis is the Gulf Fritillary. Thanks for reading and bringing this to my attention. I appreciate it.


thelyricwriter profile image

thelyricwriter 5 years ago from West Virginia

Voted useful, awesome, and interesting. Great review on the butterfly. I have never seen a butterfly egg. Interesting. Great stuff friend.


mary615 profile image

mary615 5 years ago from Florida Author

Thanks, thelyricwriter, you are so nice. I just wrote a new poem. Tell me what you think. Thanks for the encouragement, it means a lot.


frogyfish profile image

frogyfish 5 years ago from Central United States of America

Your video was absolutely fantastic! Hub info and detail was great...I would to like to link your hub to my butterfly hubs...please?


mary615 profile image

mary615 5 years ago from Florida Author

Hi frogyfish, thanks for reading this! I have to agree, I thought that video was fantastic. The children and I watched it over and over. I would be very pleased to have you link to my Hubs. Wow! I was so impressed when I read your profile and all the work you have done here. I intend to read your Hubs soon! (Love your little frog)


oceansnsunsets profile image

oceansnsunsets 5 years ago from The Midwest, USA

Mary, this is a wonderful hub! I thoroughly enjoyed it, thank you so much for sharing more about these beautiful creatures. I agree, they are almost too pretty to be an insect, yet they are. I love them so much! Great hub! :)


mary615 profile image

mary615 5 years ago from Florida Author

Thanks oceansnsunsets! You and I share a lot of interests, especially the Butterfly. I have a friend from Jamaica. She tell me there is a tree there called the Lignum Vitrae (the national tree of Jamaica), that is filled with Monarchs every spring. She is going to send me photos. I will share these with you when I receive them.


Movie Master profile image

Movie Master 4 years ago from United Kingdom

Loved the video - a wonderful, interesting hub Mary, I thoroughly enjoyed reading thank you.

Voting up.

Best wishes Lesley


mary615 profile image

mary615 4 years ago from Florida Author

Good Morning, Lesley. So nice to see you today! I have a Milkweed plant that butterflies love to reproduce on. So glad you enjoyed the video. I thought it was outstanding to see the life cycle. I hope you have a wonderful day!


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 4 years ago from New York

Great information and videos. This was very interesting and educational. I hope you don't mind but I linked it to my hub on butterflies!

Voted up and interesting.


mary615 profile image

mary615 4 years ago from Florida Author

Hi tillsontitan, thanks for reading and commenting on the life cycle of the butterfly. I have been busy lately raising the Monarchs I bought Milkweed plant which they use to eat and lay their eggs. I bring the chrysalis inside inside netting until they come out. It's such a thrill to see them.

I put a photo on my Hub about my Blue Orchid of one on the orchid.

I am honored to have you link to my Hub. I will do the same, OK?


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 4 years ago from New York

Most definitely ok! Its an honor to be linked to this lovely hub.


Alecia Murphy profile image

Alecia Murphy 4 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina

Butterflies are some of the most beautiful creatures there are. I love how they start in one form and end up so evolved and delicate. This hub also reminds me of one of my favorite songs as a child and now, "Butterfly" by Mariah Carey. Great hub, I really enjoyed reading it.


mary615 profile image

mary615 4 years ago from Florida Author

Hi Alecia. Yes, I agree. Butterflies are beautiful. I had not thought of that song in a long time, it is a nice song. Maybe I can find that video!

I'm happy you enjoyed my Hub, Mary


Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 4 years ago from Houston, Texas

So glad that I found this hub of yours Mary. It is wonderful and everyone interested in Monarch butterflies should watch that video. I'm going to link this to my Cockrell Butterfly Center hub. All kinds of up votes and definitely sharing.


mary615 profile image

mary615 4 years ago from Florida Author

Hi, Peggy W. I am so happy you enjoyed reading my Hub on the life cycle of the butterfly. They are just the most amazing creatures. I'm glad you liked the video, too. I have watched it several times. I am honored that you would link my link to yours on the Cockrell Butterfly Center. I will do the same, please.

Thanks for the votes and the share, I do appreciate that.

Goodnight. Mary


Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 4 years ago from Houston, Texas

Finally was able to add your wonderful hub link to mine. Must have been some kind of glitch earlier in the day. Am sure that many people will enjoy reading your hub and watching that fantastic video of the life cycle of a Monarch butterfly. It is amazing the changes that they go through prior to becoming a butterfly!


mary615 profile image

mary615 4 years ago from Florida Author

Good Morning, Peggy W Thanks so much for letting me know about the link! I may have already told you (on your Cockrell Butterfly Center Hub): I have planted milkweed just so the Monarch has a place to lay eggs. My family have watched in awe on a daily basis how they develop just like that video. Truly amazing! My friend from Jamaica tells me they have a tree called the Monarch Butterfly Tree. That tree will be filled with Monarchs at certain times of the year!

Hope you have a wonderful day, Mary


Jools99 profile image

Jools99 3 years ago from North-East UK

Lovely photos Mary. I never get tired of looking at butterflies. When I was a kid, we used to find chrysalis hanging on door frame and every day my dad would take us outside to see if the butterflies had flown; I remember it like it was yesterday - none were as fancy as your lovely butterflies, mainly cabbage whites and red admirals but we loved 'em all the same.


mary615 profile image

mary615 3 years ago from Florida Author

Hi, Joos99. We're are blessed with lovely butterflies at different times of the year. The Monarch is my favorite of all! I was so thrilled to find the Monarch drying his wings on my blue orchid.

Glad I brought back sweet memories for you and your Dad.

Thanks for reading and commenting, Mary


KerryAnita profile image

KerryAnita 3 years ago from Satellite Beach, Florida

Wonderful hub Mary! Butterflies are such beautiful creatures, and there are so many types here in Florida! I have a field guide that I like to use to ID the ones that come to my garden:) Plus, butterflies are good luck!:)


mary615 profile image

mary615 3 years ago from Florida Author

Hi, Kerry Anita. I'm happy you liked my Hub on the Butterfly. Yes, they are quite beautiful. Have you planted Milk Weed plants in your garden? The Monarch loves that plant.

I tried to email you but I couldn't find your email address on your profile. Do you have that function set up on your settings??

Thanks so much for reading and taking the time to leave a comment, Mary


KerryAnita profile image

KerryAnita 3 years ago from Satellite Beach, Florida

I have not planted milk weed, but I'll have to consider that if they attract Monarchs.

And, Let me check to make sure I have to email function set up correctly. Thanks for making me aware of that! Have a great day!


mary615 profile image

mary615 3 years ago from Florida Author

Hi, KerryAnita. Yes, from what I learned reading about butterflies, the Milkweed plant is the ONLY plant the Monarchs will eat and lay their eggs on. I had a difficult time finding the Milkweed plant locally at garden shops. I found local plant nursery that had them.


rebeccamealey profile image

rebeccamealey 3 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

This is great Mary. I know this sounds nuts but I had a pet butterfly when I was little!


mary615 profile image

mary615 3 years ago from Florida Author

Hi, rebeccamealey. Ahhhhh, I never heard of having a pet butterfly before. They are beautiful enough to become attached to them, but the sad part is they don't live very long.

Thanks for reading and commenting, Mary


Jackie Lynnley profile image

Jackie Lynnley 3 years ago from The Beautiful South

How interesting. I wish there was some way we could help the production and life of the butterfly. Even here in the south with so many flowers it is an event to see more than a lone butterfly.


mary615 profile image

mary615 3 years ago from Florida Author

Good Morning, Jackie Lynnley. Right now I have some 75 Monarch eggs on my Milkweed plant. It is always such a thrill to see them!

Thanks for reading and commenting, Mary


Jackie Lynnley profile image

Jackie Lynnley 3 years ago from The Beautiful South

That is great, hope you get some pictures. I am still gonna try for the chicks. My son offered to build me a pen for them but we just keep having rain, every day! I found I could find them on Craig's List!


mary615 profile image

mary615 3 years ago from Florida Author

Hi again, Jackie. I did get some great photos of the last bunch of Monarchs that hatched out. Maybe I'll write a Hub about them....

I'm happy you're going to get some chicks! You will just love them. I would not have thought to look on Craig's list for chicks.

Good luck...let me know how you do with them, Mary


Jackie Lynnley profile image

Jackie Lynnley 3 years ago from The Beautiful South

Yeah they are way cheaper on Craig's List. I sure will let you know about the chicks, thanks.


mary615 profile image

mary615 3 years ago from Florida Author

Hi Jackie. I'll look forward to hearing about your chicks!


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 2 years ago from England

Hi mary, I loved this! I have loved butterflys ever since I was tiny and one would settle in our house every year, of course I always believed it was the same one! lol! but somehow they seemed to know where to 'grow' if you like, then off they would go, I always remember it, voted this up and wonderful!


schoolgirlforreal profile image

schoolgirlforreal 2 years ago from USA

Oh, I really loved this and the video was so breathtaking. Thanks for sharing!!!


mary615 profile image

mary615 2 years ago from Florida Author

I have a newfound hobby of preserving the Monarch butterfly by planting Milkweed as that is it's only food source. If you're interested, when you have some time check out my Hub about that.

I love the butterfly too.

Thanks for reading and for the nice compliment and votes, Mary


mary615 profile image

mary615 2 years ago from Florida Author

Nell Rose, I just added a link to my Hub of preserving the Monarchs if you are interested. I don't know why I haven't done that before!


mary615 profile image

mary615 2 years ago from Florida Author

Hi, schoolgirlforreal. I am so glad you watched that video. I found it fasinating, too.

I love the butterfly, too.

Thanks for reading, my best, Mary


Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 22 months ago from Houston, Texas

Hi Mary,

Just the other night on the news it was mentioned again about the severe decline in Monarch butterflies due to loss of normal habitat. Keep growing your milkweeds and hope more people do the same especially in the Midwest part of our country. Sharing once again and giving this an extra tweet.


peachpurple profile image

peachpurple 22 months ago from Home Sweet Home

Thanksfor your tips, but i heard that you cannot touch the caterpillar or you will get rashes, right?


mary615 profile image

mary615 22 months ago from Florida Author

Hi, Peggy W Yes, it is very disturbing to hear of the decline of the beautiful Monarchs. Insecticides used has destroyed so much Milkweed, and they must have Milkweed to feed on. I would imagine you could grown Milkweed where you live, too. Thanks for helping me spread the word of how important it is to preserve our butterflies, Mary


mary615 profile image

mary615 22 months ago from Florida Author

Hi, peachpurple Gee, I never heard that touching a caterpillar will cause a rash. There are some caterpillars that will sting (I think they are called Saddleback, but I'm not sure). I've never touched a Butterfly catterpillar. Thanks for reading and commenting. Mary


pstraubie48 profile image

pstraubie48 20 months ago from sunny Florida

Totally enthralled by these magnificent creatures I never tire of reading of them. the video of the monarch from start to finish is one that I can view again and again.

When I was still in the classroom we would hatch butterflies each year. What fun for the kids to see the process and to watch them as they flew off.

thanks for sharing, Mary. Wishing you a lovely Wednesday here in gorgeous Florida.

Angels are winging their way to you this morning ps


mary615 profile image

mary615 20 months ago from Florida Author

Hi, there, pstraubie48 I worry about the Monarchs. We are destroying their only source of food, the Milkweed. I encourage people to plant Milkweed in their gardens (wrote a Hub about that, too).

Yes, it is such a thrill to see the butterfly emerge, dry off, and then fly away. I love that!!

Thanks for reading and commenting.

Yes, it's going to be another day in our wonderful Florida, Mary

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