How Does a Caterpillar Transform Into A Butterfly?

This awesome butterfly video comes courtesy of the Oregon Zoo, and shows an Oregon silverspot butterfly (Speryeria zerene hippolyta) transform from a caterpillar to a chrysalis in a matter of seconds. The video is comprised of 15,000 time-lapse photos taken at the Oregon Zoo.

The science behind a transforming caterpillar is mind-blowing. In case it’s too tough to wrap your mind around how it all goes down, here’s a quick tutorial:


The First Stage: The Egg

A butterfly starts life as a very small egg. These eggs are usually laid on the leaves of plants. Inside, tiny caterpillars are growing.

The Second Stage: The Larva (Caterpillar)

When the egg finally hatches, it’s not a butterfly that pops out. It’s a caterpillar, and it has one job.

Eating. The caterpillar start its work by eating the leaf it was born on. Once they start eating, they instantly grow.  Their exoskeleton (skin) does not stretch or grow, so they grow by “molting” (shedding the skin). This happens several times during this stage.

The Third Stage: Pupa (Chrysalis)

As soon as a caterpillar is done eating and growing, they form themselves into a pupa, also known as a chrysalis. From our perspective, the pupa looks like a simple resting place for the caterpillar. But inside, there’s a lot happening.

Inside of the pupa, the caterpillar is rapidly changing, undergoing a remarkable transformation, called ‘metamorphosis.’ Tissue, limbs and organs of a caterpillar have all been changed by the time the pupa is finished, and is now ready for the final stage of a butterfly’s life cycle.

The Fourth Stage: Adult Butterfly

Finally, when the caterpillar has done all of its changing inside the pupa, an adult butterfly will emerge. At first, both of the wings are soft and folded against its body. This is because the butterfly had to fit all its new parts inside of the pupa.

But almost immediately, blood will be pumped into the wings, getting them working and flapping. Within three or four hours, the butterfly will master flying and head out into the wild.

Thanks to the Butterfly Site for the helpful info.


  1. oooooooooooohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaawwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww so cute

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