God has created some amazing creatures! We have been learning about one of them, the butterfly, namely the Painted Lady Butterfly. The Painted Lady Butterfly is very common throughout North America and goes through 4 life cycle stages: egg, larva (caterpillar), pupa (chrysalis) & the adult Butterfly.
Stage One: Egg
The female butterfly will lay several eggs on a leaf. Like most butterflies, the Painted Lady Butterfly tends to lay her eggs on plants the future caterpillar will enjoy, like thistle. This stage will last about 3 to 5 days.
Stage Two: Larva (Caterpillar)
Once the caterpillar hatches from the egg, it will eat the outer egg shell, which is high in protein. The caterpillar will continue to feast on many leaves, growing quickly. The caterpillar will go through 4 instars, or 4 molts. The skin does not grow with the caterpillar and they will shed (molt) their bristly skin as they continue to grow. Caterpillars also have spinnerets that produce silk, found right under the mouth. The silk helps them balance while moving and climbing. As the pre-pupal stage nears, more and more silk will appear. This larva stage will last between 5 to 10 days.
We purchased our larva from Insect Lore.
Stage Three: Pupa (Chrysalis)
Once fully grown, the caterpillar will be around 2 inches long and ready for the next stage. Finding a safe place, the caterpillar will make a silk pad from the spinneret to attach to. It will then hang upside down, curling into a "J" shape. It will hang this way for about 24 hours.
Soon, the skin will actually split open from head to abdomen revealing the chrysalis. The chrysalis is hard, shiny and brownish-green with gold dots. This is the final molt. I caught this on camera last year and it was amazing! You can click here to read that post and see the metamorphosis as it happened.
While inside the chrysalis, the body completely liquefies and begins rearranging into a butterfly. It's really an incredible process! If you look closely at the chrysalis you will see the butterfly wings inside. This stage lasts around 7-10 days.
Stage Four: Butterfly
Butterflies use a straw like projection, called a proboscis, to sip nectar from flowers. The proboscis is normally coiled up in flight, but in the picture below, it is uncoiled as it sips sugar water. We soaked a cotton ball with a simple mixture of 4 parts water, 1 part sugar which was boiled and cooled.
Abby got to gently hold and release each of her 5 butterflies.
One particular butterfly loved her dress. She walked around the yard several minutes before the butterfly flew away.
It was such a great, hands-on experience for Abby. She loved every minute and learned so much!