Life Cycle Of A Butterfly: Unit Study, Pictures And Craft Activities
Our Butterfly Unit Study with a special life cycle of a butterfly free printable is great for inspiring the kids with fascinating facts.
This page is a celebration of butterflies!
A free printable butterfly life cycle sheet.
How to raise your own caterpillars from the wild.
A summary of the butterfly cycle.
Fascinating facts about butterflies.
Butterfly craft ideas, such as butterfly paper streamers.
Free butterfly face painting instructions and how to make your own homemade face paint.
High school activities to build your interest in butterflies.
"Outstanding page! My students and I wanted to drop you a line and tell you that your web page is awesome." ~ Dahlia
PS The butterfly in this picture is the rare Large Blue, taken by us on a homeschool butterfly expedition.
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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
(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
Stage Two: Caterpillar
Monarch butterfly caterpillar
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
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
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
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
Adults spend their time in courtship, mating and egg-laying.
There are about 20,000 species of butterflies.
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You can get our free printable homeschool life cycle 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
"You've written a beautiful page here Sonya. We have done one of the kits a time or two in the past and had fantastic results!"
~ Beth, Courageous Homeschooling Facebook support group
My daughter 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.
Raising Caterpillars From The Wild
We have done this successfully but I am not entirely recommending it.
you have to make sure you know exactly which plant the caterpillars are
eating and make sure you can easily get enough fresh supplies.
and more importantly as far as the children are concerned, sadly part
of the butterfly life cycle is that they get predated a lot. That means
you may well find that instead of your caterpillar hatching into a
butterfly out pops a wasp from the dead body.
It can be a bit traumatic. So I really recommend a kit as being far more reliable.
If you do want to hatch a butterfly from wild caterpillars:
Prepare a home for them. We used an old aquarium; you can use a plastic jar with holes punched in the lid. Make sure there is ventilation and put soil, sticks and leaves in.
Go caterpillar hunting.
Try to identify the ones you find in a good book (or on the internet) so you can read up about their needs.
Don't pick the caterpillar up directly - they are easily damaged. Pick the leaf and not the caterpillar.
Only gather about 5 - leave the rest alone.
Take some damp tissues to wrap round their food plant and gather some stems to take home so you have fresh food.
your caterpillars in their home. They need water daily. You can
provide that by washing the leaves of some of the food plant in water
before you put them in. Be careful not to add too much or too little.
Don't put your butterfly home in the sun.
Put fresh leaves of the food plant in daily and clean up droppings.
it comes to time to pupate, you need to use you field guide to see what
works best for them - twigs, the soil, or somewhere to hang. The
environment should be slightly moist.
When they hatch - enjoy and release back where you found them. What a wonderful way to observe the life cycle of a butterfly.
There are lots of butterfly craft activities for kids to enjoy.
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.
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 butterfly facts:
Amazing Fact One
Monarch butterflies have been spotted as high as 1,000 feet in the air.
Amazing Fact Two
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 kids crafts project.
Amazing Fact Three
Butterflies pollinate more plants than any other insect except bees.
Preschool Butterfly Life Cycle Lesson
Why not try out the life cycle of a butterfly with your kids yourself?
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
The US Butterflies and Moths Organisation
is a great site for facts and pictures about the butterfly life cycle.
You can use it to identify any butterfly you find and submit your
Kerri, who wants to go to school to be a lepidopterist, has suggested this page which has tons of links to butterfly resources on the web.
Thank you Kerri and good luck; you have picked a great career and will be fabulous at it.
Here's a butterfly raised at home in the hands of my friend's daughter Samira.
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!
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:
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:
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
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