More about Butterflies


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It is estimated that there are about 20,000 species of butterflies in the world. In North America, there are 725 species (north of Mexico), with about 575 of these occurring regularly in the lower 48 states of the United States.

Butterfly Life Cycle

The life cycle consists of four stages:

  • Egg – A butterfly starts life as a very small, round, oval or cylindrical egg laid on the leaf of a “host plant”
  • Larva (caterpillar) – once the egg hatches, the larva eats the host plant on which it was placed. As the larva grows, they “molt” several times, becoming larger through each step, or “instar”.  Common caterpillars
  • Pupa (chrysalis) – as the larva reaches its full size, it transforms itself into a sack in which it will make the final transformation into an adult.
  • Adult butterfly

After mating, the female butterfly lays small round or oval eggs on a “host” plant as shown below. Butterflies lay their eggs on plants that will be eaten by the caterpillar when it hatches from its egg. For example, the Monarch butterfly lays her eggs on Milkweed, while the Black Swallowtail will usually lay eggs on dill or fennel.

Monarch Butterflies can produce four generations during one summer. The first three live about one month each. The fourth generation is different and can live up to nine months.

Butterfly Families

ID by Color

Alabama Butterfly Atlas

Butterflies at Home

Butterflies of Alabama – Teacher’s Guide

Butterflies and their Host Plants

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