What Insects Go Through Complete Metamorphosis?

Lacewings, beetles, scorpion flies, caddis flies, wasps, bees and fleas undergo complete metamorphosis. Additionally, butterflies, moths and skippers exhibit complete metamorphosis. Insects that exhibit complete metamorphosis undergo four different life stages: egg, larva, pupa and adult.

Most adult butterflies and moths deposit their eggs on suitable food plants in order to give the youngsters the best chance at success. Butterflies and other insects that exhibit complete metamorphosis grow the most during their larval stage. This is why caterpillars – the larval stage of butterflies and moths – are such voracious eaters. After growing large on a diet of leaves and plant stems, the larvae create safe hiding spots by folding leaves over their bodies. Some species also spin silken threads to line the pupal encasement. A few days or weeks later, the adult butterfly or moth emerges. Before they are able to fly, the insects’ wings must dry. Once they emerge as adults, the insects mate and then deposit eggs, starting the process anew.

As a whole, insects also exhibit other developmental patterns. For example, silverfish, lice and springtails grow gradually, and do not exhibit any form of metamorphosis. Grasshoppers, termites, aphids, earwigs and true bugs exhibit gradual metamorphosis, in which the young resemble their parents, and grow through a series of molts. Insects that exhibit incomplete metamorphosis, such as dragonflies, stoneflies and mayflies, experience a significant change in body shape, but have no pupa stage.