Caterpillars (Larvae of a Butterfly)

What Is a Caterpillar

The larva or caterpillar of a butterfly is the worm-like hatchling that emerges from a small egg and turns into a pupa in the next stage of its life cycle. During this larval stage, a hungry caterpillar eats constantly and grows at an astounding rate. The larva grows about 100 times its birth size while storing the food for using it as an adult. As it develops, it sheds its skin 4-5 times.

Most caterpillars have three pairs of true-legs, along with five pairs of prolegs. In addition to short antennae, mandibles, lower and upper lips, a caterpillar has six pairs of ocelli or simple eyes.

Caterpillars (Larvae of Butterfly)

How long do Caterpillars live Before Forming a Pupa

After hatching from the egg, it takes about two weeks for a larva to grow to its full size (about 2 inches long) before it is ready to form a pupa or chrysalis. Most caterpillars stay in their chrysalis for about 5-21 days before emerging as an adult butterfly.

What do Caterpillars Eat and Drink

Larvae of butterflies or caterpillars usually feed on leaves of the host plant, although some may eat other parts of the plant, including seeds and flowers. Some caterpillars are quite picky, and they feed on only one type of plant. The Monarch butterflies, for instance, only eat milkweeds. Other species, such as the Giant Swallowtail caterpillar, eats leaves of a hop, orange, and prickly ash tree.

Do they Need Water

The larvae do not need water because they get a sufficient amount of fluids from the different parts of plants they eat. Some overwintering caterpillars of Small Tortoiseshell, Brimstone, and Peacock butterflies obtain fluids from water vapor, moisture, and rain.

Video: Caterpillars Eating Leaves

Do Caterpillars Sleep

During the feeding stage, caterpillars remain inactive and stay hidden in shrubs, trees, and other sheltered areas. The state of rest in butterflies is called torpor.

Interesting Facts

  • Despite being cold-blooded animals, caterpillars are not considered worms because they are members of the Lepidoptera order of insects.
  • In addition to different bird species, human beings and insects such as yellow jackets and ladybird beetles may eat caterpillars.