Photos & Videos of the monarch butterfly life cycle and metamorphosis
LATEST MONARCH NEWS: Xerces Society has released a call to action for our western monarch population which has declined 86% this year. Please visit the Xerces website to see how you can help. Everyone can make small changes in their own lives or get involved in conservation efforts and help bring back the monarchs.
Photos of a monarch's life cycle
The monarch life cycle can be broken down into four separate stages. Each begins and ends within a range of time. 1) Egg - 3-5 days in this stage once laid 2) Caterpillar (larva) - five instars (when they shed or molt their skin) - 10-14 days in this stage 3) Chrysalis (pupa) - 10-20 days in this stage 4) Butterfly (adult) - 2 weeks to 8 months depending on generation/migration
Videos of monarch metamorphosis
The above Naturedigger video shows how the monarch larva sheds its skin or molts. When this happens, it enters into the next "instar" or stage of larval development. This happens five times. Watch the next video to see the final molt before the larva becomes a pupa or chrysalis. Go to the 5:29 mark, to see removal of the head capsule.
This is the final molt after the larva or caterpillar reaches its fifth instar. Once the last skin has been shed and the pupa or chrysalis has formed, they will remain in this stage for 10 to 20 days. Watch the video below to see the final stage of metamorphosis. The actual "eclosing" of a monarch butterfly. It's pretty incredible, you may want to go grab some popcorn!
This is the final stage of metamorphosis when the adult monarch butterfly "ecloses" or hatches from the chrysalis. It's one of nature's most spectacular miracles.