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Monarch Butterfly Life Cycle for Kids
Commonly known as the Monarchs in butterfly vernacular, Monarch butterflies are famous for their yearly migration activity that spans thousands of kilometers between North America and Mexico. This massive migration, consisting of millions of Monarchs, happens during fall as they head south towards Mexico, and during spring as they head back to their native habitat in the north. The Monarch's life cycle, being no different from that of other butterfly species, consists of a sequence of stages, more particularly described below:
Monarch Butterfly Life Cycle
1. Egg Stage - The life of the Monarch begins in a very tiny egg, about the size of a sesame seed, lain by the female Monarch on the underside of Milkweed leaves. This tiny egg contains the budding Monarch larvae, also known as a caterpillar, and will be ready to hatch in a few days. On average, the female Monarch lays close to twenty thousand eggs, all attached firmly to the leaves with sticky secretions from the female Monarch.
2. Caterpillar Stage - Between 4 to 6 days after the eggs are lain, the tiny caterpillar inside the egg begins to wriggle, signifying that it is now ready to hatch. The caterpillar then makes its way out by chewing a hole at the inner side of the egg. This caterpillar will feast on its nutrient-rich shell before moving on to look for Milkweed leaves, its main diet. As the caterpillar continues to grow, it sheds its skin several times to accommodate its rapidly growing body.
3. Pupa Stage - During this stage, the caterpillar will start seeking out a branch or a twig as prepares to spin itself into a pupa or a cocoon. After it finds a suitable spot, usually on the underside of a twig or branch, it then spins a sticky silk material that will serve as an anchor. As it settles down in a comfortable hanging position, the caterpillar then sheds its skin one last time, uncovering a luscious green pupa with tiny golden spots.
4. Adult Stage – After two weeks, the fully-formed Monarch in the pupa will wriggle continuously until the pupa splits open. As it completely emerges, the Monarch isn't ready to fly yet. Its wings are still crumpled and dehydrated, resulting from its long period of confinement inside the pupa. As the Monarch's wings reach their full span during the next hour, the Monarch butterfly then heads off to its maiden voyage, looking for flowers to feed on, and at the same time, looking for a mate to begin the Monarch's life cycle once again.