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HOW DOES A CATERPILLAR TURN INTO A BEAUTIFUL BUTTERFLY?





It does seem very odd that a crawling, wormlike creature like the caterpillar could develop into a magnificent flying creature with jewel-like wings. Indeed, butterflies as a group are probably the most beautiful of all insects. The incredible transformation that an organism undergoes as it develops into an adult (in this case, the caterpillar developing into a butterfly) is called metamorphosis.

There are four distinct stages that a butterfly goes through in its life. The stages are called a life cycle and are explained below.

Stage 1 • Egg

When a female butterfly becomes an adult, she lays an egg, or a cluster of several eggs, on a leaf of a plant. A butterfly egg is very tiny and a little bit sticky, so it sticks to the leaf until it hatches. About four to ten days after the egg is laid, a tiny caterpillar hatches from it. All the little caterpillar wants to do is eat. It starts eating the leaves of the plant it hatched on almost as soon as it is out of its egg.

Stage 2 • Larva

The tiny caterpillar is called a larva. As the larva eats, it becomes too big for its skin, and begins to shed its top layer of skin, to reveal a larger, brand-new layer of skin, which is soft and flexible, underneath! This happens about four or five times during the larva stage. The caterpillar keeps eating and growing for several weeks, until it is time to move on to the next stage.

Stage 3 • Pupa

After a while, the caterpillar stops eating. It is now much bigger than it was when it first hatched from its egg, and it is ready to develop into the next stage, called a pupa, or chrysalis. The caterpillar begins searching for the perfect place to turn into a pupa. It looks for a place that feels safe (like a plant stem or the side of a leaf), and then attaches itself securely, usually upside down, to the spot, using strands of silk that it produces. Then it sheds its skin one last time. This time, the new skin underneath is not soft and flexible; it is hard and smooth and makes a case around the caterpillar’s whole body. The chrysalis hangs from the spot for several days, weeks, or even months, depending on what type of butterfly pupa it is.

Stage 4 •Adult

Before long, the pupa is finished developing, and a butterfly breaks out of the chrysalis. When a butterfly first emerges from its chrysalis, its wings are folded up and slightly damp. The butterfly stays put for a while, pumping blood through the veins in its wings and allowing the air to dry them. Then it flies away, on the lookout for its first sip of nectar.

Soon the female butterfly lays eggs, and the life cycle starts all over again.

Did You
Know?

A butterfly emerges from the pupa fully grown; it will never grow any bigger as long as it lives.

Eaten Out of House and Home

Lots of caterpillars eat the shell of the egg they have hatched out of!

Torah Tidbit

Techiyat Hametim

One of the core beliefs in Judaism is techiyat hametim
that in Acharit Hayamim (the End of Days), the dead will miraculously be brought back to life. The cycle of a butterfly’s life, and the emergence of a beautiful insect from a seemingly lifeless chrysalis, is an inspiring illustration of this belief. Although death seems to be the end of our cycle of life, in truth it is the beginning of a pupa-like stage, which will be followed by a better form of life which is unimaginable today.