Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Life Cycle of a Butterfly

The Life Cycle of a Butterfly

Monarch feeding on Helenium

Butterflies are the jewels of a garden perhaps in part because of their extraordinary life cycle that can last a month or nearly a year. They begin life as a tiny egg that the female has attached to a leaf of a host plant or near one. A host plant is what the caterpillar will feed on when it emerges. Host plants are critical to butterflies because some, like Monarchs can only feed on one species of plant, milkweeds. 
Monarch Caterpillar

If you look closely, you can often see the caterpillar growing inside. When the caterpillar or larva emerges from the egg it is in a feeding and growth stage. It will shed its skin several times to accommodate its growing body. When the caterpillar spins it’s cocoon the transformation begins in the chrysalis or pupa. Many species overwinter in this stage. Finally, the magic is complete and the adult or imago emerges. In this stage butterflies mate and migrate or colonize new areas so, the circle begins again.

One of my favorite milkweed plants, Asclepias 'Hello Yellow'

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