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Why Caterpillars Turn Into Butterflies

Updated on December 26, 2017
clivewilliams profile image

Clive Williams is an internet researcher and writer on many genres. He has a BSc. Degree in Information Systems.

Caterpillar Life Cycle
Caterpillar Life Cycle

Despite how gross some people believe caterpillars are, at the end of the day they all transform into something beautiful. Caterpillars comes into many shapes, sizes and color. There are a variety of caterpillar species which have different textures and even toxicity level.

Caterpillar Textures

If you have ever been caterpillar site seeing, you would probably notice how diverse the caterpillar textures are. You will find spiny caterpillars, smooth caterpillars, slimy caterpillars and the rough texture caterpillars.

Hairy Caterpillars

  • The rule of the Wild is to avoid any bright colored or spiny animals because chances are they are usually poisonous. There are a variety of hairy poisonous caterpillars such as the Bag Shelter caterpillar, the saddle back caterpillar and the puss caterpillar just to name a few. The toxins are normally in the hair of these creatures and once touched, may lead to life threatening illnesses.

Smooth Caterpillars

  • While there are spiny poisonous caterpillars, there are also smooth non poisonous caterpillars. These caterpillars are normally safe to touch but if you are a predator may not always be safe to eat as a few of these smooth caterpillars are also poisonous once eaten or bitten. Remember the rule of the wild, avoid bright colored animals as they may be poisonous.

Thorny or Spiny Caterpillars

  • These caterpillars are not friendly touches and most of them may be poisonous. Be careful when picking up these slow crawlers.

Caterpillars Defense Mechanisms

Caterpillars are eaten by, well everything that wants a caterpillar to eat! From other insects to a variety of birds. Caterpillars survival depends on how well they will not become the target of attack and they do so by camouflaging themselves or try o mimic lifeless objects such as twigs. Then there are those which sports those bright colors which many animals know is off limits when it comes on to munching as bright colors are always a sign of being poisonous. Some caterpillars even try to be as clever as the skunk and applies a stink scent to deter attackers by secreting a stinky odor from glands. For those who do not have these defense mechanism, well one can say that the birds will feast more on them.

Poisonous Caterpillar
Poisonous Caterpillar

What Do caterpillars Eat - Caterpillar Diet

If you wake up one day and see the leaves of your lovely lettuce you grew and protected so deary eaten away, more than likely a caterpillar is the culprit. Caterpillars diet consist of a variety of plants and leaves even though some caterpillars are specialized eaters. Meaning that they will only eat specific types of leaves. Mourning cloak caterpillars for example, will feed on willow, elm, aspen, paper birch, cottonwood, and hackberry.

Why Caterpillars Turn Into Butterflies

Caterpillars on their own only serve to feed to build up itself in order to transform into the much needed butterfly. Caterpillars have no way of reproducing as caterpillars and must morph into another species to continue its cycle of life. The adult butterfly acts as the mating and egg laying stage, while the caterpillar is the feeding and cocooning stage. The caterpillar is not what one could call a speedy insect and other than toxins, they don't have any other frightening defense mechanisms. Butterflies are quicker as they are winged insects and are able to even travel long distances to find fresh vegetation and for breeding. Butterflies such as the Monarch migrate from California to Mexico for the winter. One could ask why didn't butterflies start from the butterfly itself laying its tiny butterflies and then just growing into adult butterflies, but the thing is that caterpillars are needed as part of the eco cleanup system.

How Long Do Caterpillars Take To Turn Into Butterflies

Caterpillars normally go through a series of stages before emerging as the beautiful butterfly we all love. As a caterpillar, it will eat as much as it can, in fact the main purpose of the caterpillar is to eat. Lets look at the caterpillar life cycle with the image below.

Caterpillar Lifecycle
Caterpillar Lifecycle

Caterpillar Life Cycle Explained

The average life cycle for caterpillars is around 28 days, ranging from egg to butterfly.

  • The Butterfly lays its tiny egg on a leaf which will take around 3 days to hatch into tiny Larva.
  • Then The Tiny Larva will grow into a mature caterpillar which will consume foods for about 10 days
  • When the caterpillar reaches its full stage it forms a cocoon/pupa or chrysalis and will transform into a butterfly. The Pupa takes 4-5 days to transform into a adult butterfly.
  • Then the butterfly emerges and will mate and live and lay new eggs in around 10 days or so and then the butterfly will die.

© 2015 Clive Williams


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    • clivewilliams profile image

      Clive Williams 2 years ago from Jamaica

      yes, always exploring, butterflies are beautiful. But do you like caterpillars?

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Fuller 2 years ago from Southern Illinois

      This was interesting. I love butterflies. I have a white butterfly bush in my back yard and a great variety come to feed off the nectar. awesome!!!

    • clivewilliams profile image

      Clive Williams 2 years ago from Jamaica

      Hello are most welcome

    • Frank Atanacio profile image

      Frank Atanacio 2 years ago from Shelton

      thank you for this charming science lesson my friend.. :)