The metamorphosis of a Monarch butterfly…fascinating!

November 9, 2011 at 11:11 am (video research archive)

I’ve always been fascinated by this magnificent change…but why does it happen? Why can’t it stay as a caterpillar? Why isn’t it born as a butterfly?

When the egg finally hatches, most of you would expect for a butterfly to emerge, right?  Well, not exactly.  In the butterfly’s life cycle, there are four stages and this is only the second stage.  Butterfly larvae are actually what we call caterpillars. Caterpillars do not stay in this stage for very long and mostly, in this stage all they do is eat.

When the egg hatches, the caterpillar will start his work and eat the leaf they were born onto. This is really important because the mother butterfly needs to lay her eggs on the type of leaf the caterpillar will eat – each caterpillar type likes only certain types of leaves. Since they are tiny and can not travel to a new plant, the caterpillar needs to hatch on the kind of leaf it wants to eat.

Caterpillars need to eat and eat so they can grow quickly. When a caterpillar is born, they are extremely small. When they start eating, they instantly start growing and expanding.  Their exoskeleton (skin) does not stretch or grow, so they grow by “molting” (sheding the outgrown skin) several times while it grows.

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