A butterfly is an insect that has four wings covered with tiny, colorful scales. It typically holds its wings erect when it is at rest. Butterflies have clubbed or dilated antennae and are usually active during the day.
Butterflies are members of the order Lepidoptera. All members of this order have four large, showy wings with scales, sucking mouth parts, and large, compound eyes. Members of this order also go through a process called metamorphosis, which is a series of physical changes, throughout their lives. Specifically, a butterfly begins its life as a caterpillar and develops into a butterfly.
After mating, female butterflies lay their eggs on caterpillar food or host plants. The eggs can hatch within a few days, months or even years, depending on environmental conditions.
After hatching, a caterpillar begins to eat the host plant. The caterpillar sheds its skin several times during this stage. It then seeks shelter, suspends itself by silken threads, and sheds one last time to reveal skin that hardens to form the chrysalis or pupa. Depending on the species, days, months and even years can pass before a fully developed butterfly emerges from the chrysalis. The cycle then begins again.
A caterpillar’s first meal is its own eggshell. It then spends most of its time eating the leaves of the plant on which it hatched. An adult butterfly, however, uses its sucking mouth parts to sip nectar from flowers, juice from rotting fruit and water from puddles.