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Caterpillars, Butterflies

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From: the Editors at Pet Care Tips

In one of the articles we have called Caterpillars as Pets we told
you how you can find and care for a pet caterpillar, in that
article you found out caterpillars grow to become either butterflies
or moths.

There are some basic differences between butterflies and moths,
with the primary difference being that most butterflies are active in
the daytime, and most moths are active at night.

If you do choose to raise a pet caterpillar and watch it
become a moth or butterfly, here is what you will see:

Every butterfly or moth goes through four stages in its
life. In each stage the butterfly or moth looks very
different from the way it looks in the other stages. The
cycle of stages is called metamorphosis.

Stage 1: Egg

The first stage of life for a butterfly or moth is the egg.
Butterflies and moths lay very similar looking small oval or
round eggs. The eggs will be laid only on plants that are
suitable food for the caterpillars that will hatch from

Stage 2: Larva

When the egg of an insect hatches, what usually emerges in
what is called the larval stage. The larva may look nothing
like its parents; you'd never guess what it will be when it
is grown. This is very true with butterflies and moths.
Their larvae are called caterpillars, and they usually look
like small worms with legs.

Caterpillars spend nearly all their time eating and growing,
and they can eat only the plants that are the right ones for
its species. A caterpillar eats about eight times its weight
every day!

Once a caterpillar becomes a butterfly or moth, it won't
grow any longer, so the caterpillar is storing up everything
it will need for the next stages of its life. As it grows it
outgrows its skin and goes through several molts.

Stage 3: Pupa

Once a caterpillar has grown as much as it is going to grow,
it metamorphoses into a pupa. It does this by spinning or
forming a protective shell around itself. If the caterpillar
is becoming a butterfly, its covering is called a chrysalis,
and if it is a moth, it is in a cocoon. It looks like it is
dead or sleeping, but it is actually working very hard,
changing everything about itself from the inside out. Its
organs basically dissolve and reform themselves into the
organs, wings, and other body parts of the adult butterfly
or moth. It is really quite amazing!

Stage 4: Adult

Once the pupa has finished its changing into a moth or
butterfly, it is ready to emerge and it chews its way out of
the chrysalis or cocoon. Its wings are crumpled against its
body, and it has to climb up on a twig or leaf and fan them.
As it fans its wings its body pumps fluid into the wings and
they slowly dry and expand until they become the beautiful
wings of an adult butterfly or moth. As an adult, the major
job of the butterfly or moth is to find a mate and lay their
eggs on the right plants, to start the process all over
again. Most moths and butterflies eat nectar from flowers,
and in doing so help the bees with pollinating.

Here is a list of some terms you may see in your Lepidoptera

Lepidoptera - the scientific classification of the order of
butterflies and moths.

Host plant - Many species of butterflies and moths will only
lay their eggs on one or a few types of plants, and those
plants are the only food the young caterpillars will eat.
The plant that adult butterflies and moths choose to use for
egg laying is called the host plant.

Caterpillar - Most insects go through four stages of life,
from egg to larva to pupa to adult, and at each stage it
usually looks totally different than it did in the stage
before. The larval stage of either a moth or a butterfly is
called a caterpillar.

Molts - As larvae grow, their skins don't grow with them.
Every so often they shed the now-too-small skin. This is
called molting.

Instars - A caterpillar is called an instar when it is in
any one of its periods of growth between molts.

Chrysalis - The chrysalis is often called a cocoon, but a
cocoon is the pupa stage of a moth's life, and the chrysalis
is the pupa stage of a butterfly. The chrysalis forms when
the butterfly caterpillar sheds its skin for the final time
and a protective outer covering forms to protect the pupa
inside as it changes to a butterfly.

Cocoon - the pupa stage of a moth is called a cocoon.
Cocoons are made of spun silken threads that the last instar
caterpillar spins. Some kinds of moths also spin leaves and
twigs into their cocoons. Once it has spun its cocoon, the
caterpillar inside will shed its skin for the last time and
form a pupa with a hardened outer coating.

See more:
Caterpillars and Butterflies as Pets

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