Why do caterpillars turn into butterflies?

painted-lady-butterfly

My daughter wanted to understand how and why caterpillars turn into butterflies. So we bought some caterpillars and watched and waited and kept them safe as they grew and changed and developed. A couple of weeks ago, on a warm, sunny and dry morning, we released our Painted Ladies into the garden so they could fly off and live in the wild…

A butterfly’s life-cycle involves four different stages:

It starts life as an egg. Female butterflies lay lots of eggs. They usually lay them on leaves so that, when they hatch, the baby caterpillars that come out will have plenty of food to eat.

When the egg hatches, a tiny caterpillar emerges. The caterpillar has one job to do – it has to eat and eat and eat! Caterpillars like to eat leaves and they need lots of food to give them plenty of energy because they do a lot of growing! Just like in The Very Hungry Caterpillar!

When the caterpillar has grown big, it finds somewhere safe and hangs upside down. Then it makes a special cocoon called a ‘chrysalis’ around its whole body. Here’s a photo of the chrysalises that our caterpillars made:

IMG_0365

Inside the chrysalis, the caterpillar’s body changes – it makes all the body parts it needs to become a grown-up butterfly!

After a week or two, the butterfly hatches out of the chrysalis. The butterfly stretches out its wings and uses a special tongue (called a ‘proboscis’) to drink sugary juices from fruits and flowers. These juices give the butterfly the energy it needs to fly off and find another butterfly to make eggs with.

Then the whole life-cycle starts all over again…

 

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