Life Cycle of Butterflies and Moths

The life cycle of butterflies and moths is a wonder of nature. Enjoy our animated film and follow up learning resources. 

The life cycle of butterflies and moths is truly amazing!

Butterflies and moths go through four key stages of metamorphosis; egg, caterpillar, pupa, and adult. Watch our animated film above and download our life cycle guide and activity sheets to learn more about this incredible process.


Life Cycle Stages:

1. Egg

It all starts with an egg. Butterflies and moths lay really small eggs. Eggs can be round or oval, and come in different colours and textures depending on the type (species) of butterfly or moth that laid them. Eggs are usually laid on plants that the hatching caterpillar will like to eat - as they can be really fussy eaters!

2. Caterpillar (Larva)

The job of the caterpillar is to eat and grow. Caterpillars have exoskeletons, so in order to grow they must shed their skin. Most caterpillars will shed their skin five times in total.

3. Pupa (Chrysalis)

As soon as the caterpillar has finished growing, it will look for a safe place to pupate. Some caterpillars pupate attached to their foodplant, while others burrow in to the ground or make a cocoon around themselves before pupating inside. It will then shed its skin one last time to form a chrysalis (pupa). Inside, the body-parts of the caterpillar break down and reform to make the adult butterfly or moth. 

4. Adult (Butterfly or Moth)

Finally, after a period of transformation which can take anywhere from a week to a year depending on the type (species) of butterfly or moth, the adult will begin to emerge. When it first emerges it's wings look damp and wrinkled, but it soon starts pumping fluid into its wings until they are dry and strong enough to fly. 


Butterfly and Moth Life Cycles

Butterfly and Moth Life Cycles Guide

Butterfly Life Cycle Worksheet

Life Cycle Worksheet (suitable for ages 7-11)

Life cycle worksheet (ages 5-7)

Life Cycle Worksheet (suitable for ages 5-7)

Life Cycle Wordsearch

Life Cycle Wordsearch


Useful Links


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