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Contents > Resources > The lifecycle of a butterfly

The lifecycle of a butterfly

Like other insects, butterflies have 4 lifestages,
the egg (ovum), caterpillar (larva), pupae (chrysalis) and adult (imago).

White Butterfly egg

  :::: Ovum (Egg) ::::
The ovum is laid in a secure place and left to hatch.

A White Butterfly egg is pictured.


Yellow Admiral Caterpillar

  :::: Larva (Caterpillar) ::::
The larva is very small upon hatching and most will eat the egg shell as their first meal. The larva is an eating machine and spends most of it's time eating and growing. As a caterpillar grows it needs to shed its skin when it gets too tight, most species do this 4 or 5 times until the final moult, which is when the larva changes into a pupae. Each stage between moults is called an instar.

A Yellow Admiral caterpillar is pictured.

Red Admiral Pupa

  :::: Pupa (Chrysalis) ::::
The pupa is the metamorphosis time when the larva changes into the imago or adult butterfly.

A Red Admiral pupa is pictured.


Female Rauparaha's Copper

  :::: Imago (Adult) ::::
The imago spends most of it's time on reproduction and foraging for safe places to lay eggs, occasionally taking time out for a nectar feed at a flower. So the cycle begins again.

A female Rauparaha's Copper adult is pictured about to lay an egg.


How do Butterflies survive the winter?
In New Zealand all but two species use quiescence for surviving the winter. This means they will wake for a feed on warmer days. The two remaining species which are not orginally native (White Butterfly and Honshu White Admiral) have diapause, which means they will sleep through winter in hibernation. The majority of our endemic species over-winter as a larvae, while other species over-winter as a imago or pupae. No New Zealand species over-winters as a ovum.

So grow some winter flowers and expect to see Monarch's, Red and Yellow Admiral's on winter flowers. The Yellow Admiral is also known to overwinter as a larvae and slowly munch away on warmer days.


Contents > Resources > The lifecycle of a butterfly