The beautiful black and orange Monarch butterfly may soon be on the endangered list. It’s suffered a 90% decline in the eastern U.S. over the last 20 years thanks due to loss habitat and specifically the loss of milkweed, the only plant on which it will lay its eggs and the resulting larvae will feed.
Monarch butterflies go through four stages within their life cycle, which takes around a month, and four generations of butterflies are created in one year.
Three to eight days (depending on the temperature) after being laid the egg will hatch into a larva, or a caterpillar. After two weeks of feeding and shedding its skin, the larva will spin a silk mat and attach it to the underside of a leaf or stem. It then hangs there and sheds its skin for the final time. This forms a pupa, or chrysalis.
During this stage, which takes roughly 10 days, the larva inside the chrysalis begins to digest itself, releasing enzymes to dissolve its tissues turning it into what is essentially, caterpillar soup. Only a few highly organized groups of cells survive this digestive process. These cells – called imaginal discs – and the the protein-rich soup the sit in are used as building blocks for rapid cell division, forming wings, legs, eyes and all other butterfly parts.
The fully formed butterfly then sheds its chrysalis, going on to mate (for up to 16 hours!), lay eggs and start the cycle again. It has to get a move on though, as it only lives for about two to six weeks as an adult.
You can watch this amazing process in a HD timelapse video created by FrontYardVideo