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Where Do Butterflies Come From?

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P1030812 Where Do Butterflies Come From?

Like so many other living creatures on Earth, the butterfly’s life begins as an egg. Different species of butterflies lay different amounts of eggs. The eggs are tiny, only one to two millimeters, and are laid on a leaf of the host plant. The host plant will become the food for the larva after it’s born. A sticky fluid secreted by the female butterfly attaches the eggs to the plant. There they wait, for about a week, until they hatch into caterpillars, also called larva.

Now the feasting begins! The caterpillars will eat for two to four weeks, devouring leaves and plants. It will outgrow its skin several times, as its size increases. Each time the skin is shed, new skin appears, soft and moist. When the caterpillar has accumulated enough fat, it stops eating, and nearly stops moving. It may wander away from the plant in search of a good place pupate (become a pupa). Depending on the species of butterfly, the caterpillar may dangle from a plant when it pupates, or attach itself to the plant’s surface, or crawl into some other sheltered spot.

After the caterpillar has settled into its chosen place to pupate, one of two possibilities occurs. If it will change while hanging from a plant, it first must spin a silken pad, used to anchor it to the plant. It does this by using its lower lip, or jaw spinnerets. Once complete, the caterpillar clamps onto the pad with its rear claspers, and remains this way until metamorphosis is complete. Species that do not hang while they change simply spin a silken harness to secure them to the plant. Then the pupal skin forms beneath the caterpillar’s old skin. In about a day, the caterpillar molts one last time, and the pupa, or chrysalis is formed.

The final stage of a butterfly is most wondrous! Scientists still struggle to understand all the details of this metamorphosis. The word metamorphosis comes for the Greek, to transform. And that’s exactly what happens inside the chrysalis. The caterpillar liquefies its structure and tissues changing into that of a butterfly. This transformation takes up to two weeks to complete, and then, out of the chrysalis emerges a beautiful butterfly! Its wings are crumpled, and it cannot yet fly. By pumping liquid into the veins of its wings, they stretch and expand into their full size. Soon the butterfly will begin seeking a mate. But there isn’t much time to spare, because the life span of an adult butterfly is not much more than a month!

Butterfly Crafts for Kids

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