Garden Treasures - Where Do Butterflies Come From?

Garden Treasures - Where Do Butterflies Come From?
Photo by Yvette De La Garza

The butterfly goes through transformation in order to become the beautiful creature we are used to seeing everyday. The butterfly starts the first phase of transformation from an egg. Not every species of butterfly will lay the same amount of eggs. Each egg measures between one and two millimeters. Once the female butterfly readies to lay her egg, the larvae will hatch and then eat the host plant to grow. The female butterfly secretes a sticky fluid that allows the larvae to remain attached to the host plant until its completely consumed. After one week of the initial hatching, the larvae will become caterpillars, otherwise known as larva.

Caterpillars will continuously eat leaves, plants, and other greenery in the first two or four weeks after hatching from the egg. Caterpillars outgrow their own skin several times over the course of a month, shedding old skin as the new layer remains soft and moist. Caterpillars will stop eating and moving once they have eaten too much and accumulated enough fat, although they move away from the initial plant to pupate. Once the caterpillar begins to pupate, it will likely dangle from a plant or attach itself to the plant’s surface or relocate to a cool and shaded spot.

Next, the caterpillar will start to spin a silk pad in order to anchor it to the plant if it pupates while dangling from the chosen plant. The caterpillar creates the silk pad by using its lower lip or jaw spinnerets and then uses its rear claspers to anchor itself onto the pad. The caterpillar will remain attached to the silk pad until it completes its metamorphosis. Other butterfly species that do not dangle while pupating will simply spin themselves into a silk harness to secure themselves to the chosen plant. The caterpillar will form its pupal skin and then molt it until the chrysalis forms about a day later.

Garden Treasures - Where Do Butterflies Come From?
Photo by Jon Sullivan

The final phase of the butterfly transformation involves the concept known as metamorphosis, a concept that scientists still haven’t fully comprehended even to this day. Metamorphosis literally means to transform inside the chrysalis. The caterpillar liquefies its entire structure and soft tissues in order to change into a butterfly. Metamorphosis takes between two and three weeks to complete and then emerges a butterfly out of the chrysalis. The newly emerged butterfly has crumpled wings, which causes its inability to fly. The butterfly pumps liquid through its veins and into the wings in order to stretch and expand into their full size. The butterfly immediately searches for a mate because an adult butterfly does not live longer than one month.

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