Life Cycle Of A Butterfly:
Pictures And Craft Activities For All Ages

Our special life cycle of a butterfly free printable is great for inspiring the kids with fascinating facts.

You'll also see lots of beautiful pictures and craft activities for all ages.

butterfly activities for kids
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You'll find:

  1. A free printable butterfly life cycle sheet.
  2. A summary of the butterfly cycle.
  3. Fascinating facts about butterflies.
  4. Catherine's homeschool butterfly pictures which we hope will inspire you to send us your butterfly pictures.
  5. Butterfly craft ideas.
  6. High school activities which help deepen your knowledge of butterflies.

Butterfly Life Cycle

The stages in the life cycle of a butterfly are so amazing they are an ideal way to start off a joy in nature which can last a lifetime. They are also the perfect way to teach science.

Summary Of Butterfly Stages:

Stage One: Egg

butterfly_egg
Butterfly Egg

(© butterfly_egg by Urijamjari, on Flickr with thanks to the University of Queensland)

  • The adult butterfly lays 10-100 eggs on the underside of leaves.
  • The egg is a tiny object, little larger than a pinhead.
  • As you can see from this photo, the eggshells of most butterflies have intricate patterns when seen close up, with radiating ribs, spines and protrusions and a small depression (the 'micropyle') through which air penetrates to the embryo.

Stage Two: Caterpillar

Monarch Caterpiller eating
Monarch Caterpillar
(© Monarch Caterpiller eating by Lynda W1, on Flickr)

  • The egg hatches into a caterpillar or larva.
  • Most caterpillars have 12 eyes. They are a very simple structure and can only sense light and dark.
  • Many caterpillars eat 27,000 times their own body weight before they turn into a chrysalis.
  • Once a caterpillar hatches from the egg it will increase its size 30,000 times before it is ready for the next stage in the life cycle of a butterfly: the chrysalis.

Stage Three: Chrysalis

Chrysalis
Chrysalis
(© Chrysalis by horizontal.integration, on Flickr)

  • The larva changes into a chrysalis or pupa.
  • In the chrysalis stage of the life cycle of a butterfly, the caterpillar's body is turned to a liquid and the adult's body starts to form.
  • Nearly all chrysalises stay hidden from predators by being camouflaged. Disguises range from dead, dew-spangled leaves (fritillaries) to bird-droppings (black hairstreak).
  • Some chrysalises make small sounds to frighten predators away.

Stage Four: Adult

Butterfly
(© Butterfly by davidyuweb, on Flickr)

  • When the adult's body is fully formed inside the chrysalis, the adult or imago stage in the life cycle is reached and the butterfly emerges.
  • As you can see from the pictures, most species are beautifully colored. The colors you see are not caused by pigmentation but by the light bending through the scales, rather like when light bends through a water droplet.
  • Adults spend their time in courtship, mating and egg-laying.
  • There are about 20,000 species of butterflies.

You can get our free printable homeschool life cyle of a butterfly stages sheet at the bottom of this page.

Butterfly Life Cycle Kit

The best way to make the life cycle of a butterfly come alive is to see it with your own eyes. We've had such fun in our homeschool with this butterfly kit. 

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Catherine named every caterpillar that hatched from our homeschool eggs. I'm afraid Toto (which means 'little' in Swahili) didn't make it - but the rest did. You can see from my friend's daughter, Samira, just how amazing an experience it is for kids to actually see a butterfly up close and get to hold one.

common blue butterfly

Butterfly Craft

There are lots of butterfly craft activities for kids to enjoy.

butterfly craft

You'll see we've made fun butterfly streamers in our page on summer kids crafts.

monarch butterfly

Pastiche loves butterflies and has some lovely kids butterfly coloring pages for you to try which she's drawn herself. She's even made one of Catherine's pictures into a coloring page!

And come and paint pebbles with us - butterflies make the perfect subjects to turn stones into beautiful objects.  Kids really enjoy painting butterflies and if you give them a few pictures to go on you get lovely results.

butterfly pebble

Lots more fun ideas for kids on Pinterest:

Facts About Butterflies

By now, I think you can tell we've enjoyed ourselves in our homeschool by finding out the facts that make these insects fascinating! Here are a few more of our favorite facts:

  1. Monarch butterflies have been spotted as high as 1,000 feet in the air.
  2. Some species migrate across continents, with the Monarch covering as much as 2,000 miles.
  3. The largest butterfly is the Queen Alexandra's Birdwing, with a wingspan up to 1 foot (30cm) wide. It lives in the rainforest of New Guinea and you could use it to tempt your kids to join our rainforest for kids homeschool science project, where we've used our butterfly craft skills to make beautiful butterflies with holographic wings.
make butterflies to go in a rainforest scene

Rainforest Kids Crafts

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  1. Butterflies pollinate more plants than any other insect except bees.
  2. The numbers of many species have declined alarmingly in recent years.

Preschool Butterfly Life Cycle Lesson

Why not try out the life cycle of a butterfly with your kids yourself?

You could start by reading The Very Hungry Caterpillar together.

  1. Egg - scrunch yourself into a ball as tight as you can get
  2. Caterpillar - open yourself up, lie flat on the floor and wriggle around
  3. Chrysalis - close your eyes, stay as still and straight as you can for as long as you can!
  4. Butterfly - open your eyes and gently wave your arms up and down as you stretch your wings. Do your best to fly as you dash round the room.
digging up a dinosaur

Preschool Science Fun

Butterfly Websites

There are some great websites where you can find out more about the life cycle of a butterfly and many other facts too.

Here are some of our favorites:

  • Kids Butterfly Organisation with coloring sheets, craft activities and facts on the butterfly life cycle.
  • The US Butterfly Conservation Initiative has a migration activity for grades 5-8 which is easy for homeschool, where you can find out facts about migrating butterflies like the cloudless giant sulphur and the pipevine swallowtail and mark their migratory routes on a map.

brown argus

High School Activities

Learning about the life cycle of a butterfly is something you can enjoy right from when your kids are tiny - but you don't need to stop there. You'll find high school activities which help deepen your knowledge of the life cycle of these fascinating insects.

In our homeschool high school, we even plan our holidays around where the best butterfly sites are located!

life cycle of a butterfly

As you can see, there are so many interesting facts to learn about these amazing insects.

You can set up a homeschool butterfly project which includes lots of fun activities:

Monarch Migration

  • Join the fantastic Monarch Watch organisation, make a Monarch Waystation and help provide data for the Monarch tagging program.
  • Take pictures of butterflies. Here's another of Catherine's homeschool pictures:

Large Skipper

Identify the butterflies you see. There are some great guides to help with facts and pictures.

  • Look for butterfly eggs and caterpillars
  • Download maps and mark the distribution of each butterfly
  • The life cycle of a butterfly depends on the species. When you identify yours, you can fill in an annual chart showing the different stages throughout the year

Pictures Of Butterflies

If there's one thing guaranteed to brighten everyone's day, it's seeing butterfly pictures!

As Catherine has discovered, you can take pictures fairly easily. It would be great if you could get your kids to take some pictures too and send them to us!

Anything you can tell us would be great to know.

What butterflies do you get in your garden?

Have you ever kept any caterpillars?

Have you done any butterfly craft?

Painted lady butterfly

Got any pictures of butterflies?
Share your pictures here

Pictures of butterflies can really brighten up the day. Have you taken any which you'd like to share? If you don't know which species your butterfly is we'll try and help. Tell us where you took your pictures. What butterflies do you get in your garden? Have you ever kept any caterpillars?

Name Your Pictures (example: Pictures Of Monarch Butterfly caterpillars)

See More Pictures Of Butterflies

Click below to see what other visitors have added...

A Speckled Wood Butterfly 
I took this photo in our garden. We get lots of Speckled Wood butterflies (Pararge aegeria) because of the woodland type area we have in the bottom …

Click here to write your own.

Free Printable Life Cycle

butterfly life cycle pdf

Here is our homeschool free printable printable butterfly life cycle sheet. The blue butterfly picture for the adult stage in the cycle is another of Catherine's pictures to tempt you to send us yours.

We hope you'll enjoy using our facts and pictures to show off the life cycle of a butterfly, but commercial organisations and websites please note that this page, pictures and free pdf sheet are all copyright protected.

To download your free copy of our butterfly cycle, you'll need Adobe Reader installed on your computer. You can get Adobe Reader here (a new window will open.)

The life cycle of a butterfly is so fascinating that it opens up all sorts of fun homeschool activities and craft ideas for you to try.


Homeschooling Kids Experiments › Butterflies


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