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Butterflies: Life cycle

Most people like butterflies, but caterpillars don’t have such a good reputation. In fact, butterflies and caterpillars are the same creature, just at a different stage of development!

We do let some of our butterflies reproduce here, in carefully controlled conditions. If you look around, you’ll see some potted plants, such as lemon trees, banana palms, or passion flowers, whose leaves look a bit the worse for wear. These are particular food plants on which certain butterfly species have laid their eggs. Eventually, tiny caterpillars hatch from the eggs, each one about the size of the head of a pin. Depending on the size of the butterfly into which they will develop, the caterpillars spend 3 to 6 weeks constantly eating. To grow, caterpillars have to moult repeatedly. Once they reached their final size, they shed their skins one last time and pupate. Inside the pupa, one of Nature’s greatest wonders occurs: a worm-like, crawling, herbivorous creature becomes a flying gemstone that eats nothing but droplets of nectar. This metamorphosis takes one or two weeks, then the pupa splits open, and the butterfly pulls itself clear, and unfolds its wings. Its life as a butterfly is relatively short, usually lasting from 2 to 4 weeks. Once it has mated and laid eggs, its life cycle is complete.

Audio file download
Butterflies: Life cycle (MP3, 620 KB)

Audio production and copyright: Soundgarden Audioguidance GmbH
Text: Andreas Gröger, Botanischer Garten München-Nymphenburg

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