Caterpillars to Butterflies 101
Butterflies all go through the amazing process of metamorphosis, starting with the egg, hatching into the hungry caterpillar, transforming into the silent pupa and finally emerging as a beautiful butterfly. However, different butterfly species have varying durations for each stage:
- Egg: 4-14 days
- Larva (caterpillar): 2-4 weeks
- Pupa (chrysalis): 7-14 days
- Adult (butterfly): 6-20 days
- Egg: 4-6 days
- Larva (caterpillar): 2-3 weeks
- Pupa: (chrysalis): 5-15 days
- Adult (butterfly): 1-3 months
Materials & Preparation
The first thing I like to do is find come butterfly larva (caterpillars). Some caterpillar sources:
- A friend who has caterpillars in her garden (with their host plant for food)
- Caterpillars from your own garden
- Insect Lore: before I started planting milkweed to attract the monarch butterflies, I ordered from them. I have ordered butterfly larva (caterpillars) from Insect Lore for over 15 years and have had great success.
My favorite way of introducing the life cycle of the butterfly is with a ‘mystery box’. It requires them to use deductive reasoning as they ask questions that can only be answered with a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’. This activity peeks their curiosity and definitely primes their curiosity. You will probably find that they never tire of trying to ‘deduct’ what you put in the box!
After your students have ‘deduced’ what you put in the mystery box is the perfect time to do part of the KWL chart.
K = What We Know.
W = What We Wonder. This can be done as a whole group, partners, or individual activity, depending o the needs and abilities of your students.
L = new learning -As we continue through our unit we will fill this section in.
This is an amazing video that takes your students through all the stages of metamorphosis: adult, egg, larva, pupa, and completing the cycle with the hatching of the adult butterfly.
Watching the caterpillars eat and grow delights the kids (as well as adults) and they never seem get enough ‘caterpillar time’.
This is the perfect occasion for them to make an entry in their ‘Caterpillar Observation Journal’.
After the caterpillars change into a pupa in the chrysalis, I transfer them to the butterfly ‘pavilion’. If you have a place to hang it, then the students can enjoy the waiting time with more ‘watching in wonder’.
The look on their faces tell it all – WONDER!
Take is a peek at some of the resources
I created to use during this time:
It is kind to set the butterflies free within a few days after hatching from their chrysalis. I have found that watermelon is a butterfly favorite and they will often sit on a piece of it and let the kids enjoy them … one last time before they flutter away.
Two little cuties enjoying the painted ladies on Flutter-by Day!
We make little flutter-by butterfly crafts after we set the butterflies free. The fun craft makes seeing our beauties fly away a little less sad…