*** This activity will be explored during your child's time at school this week ***
*** Please only complete this activity if your child is not attending school this week - thank you ***
This week we are going to learn all about ‘life cycles’. A life cycle is the journey of a living thing from the beginning to end. Some species produce offspring that look similar to them, like humans. But the young for some other species are very different from their parents and go through huge changes as they grow into adults.
We all love butterflies for their beautiful, brightly-coloured wings. But how amazing that these fabulous flyers begin life as something completely different?
As they grow, they undergo one seriously terrific transformation – a process known as ‘metamorphosis’.
If we had all been together in school for this topic we would have been looking after caterpillars in our own butterfly garden.
Some of you might have already done this at home or you might like to set one up.
You can buy butterfly garden kits and seeing the changes for yourself is both interesting and exciting … but don’t worry we have found this super video clip to show you just what happens.
So let’s think carefully about what happens in each stage.
Stage 1: The egg
It all starts when a female butterfly lays her eggs on the leaves or stems of plants. Inside these tiny eggs, caterpillars grow. The eggs can be different shapes and textures – they can be round or oval, and smooth, bumpy or wrinkled. The time it takes for the eggs to hatch can also vary – in some species, they will hatch within a few weeks and in others they will only hatch once the weather is warm enough.
Stage 2: The Caterpillar
When it is ready, the caterpillar leaves its egg home and enters the big outside world! Little caterpillars have a really big appetite – they actually eat their way out of the egg and immediately start chomping on the leaves around them. During this stage, they shed their skin four or five times – as the caterpillar grows, its skin becomes too tight and splits open, revealing a new, larger skin underneath. A fully grown caterpillar can be over 100 times larger than when it came out of the egg.
Stage 3: The Pupa
Once fully grown, the caterpillar forms itself into a “pupa” (or chrysalis) – which is a bit like a sleeping bag. Inside, the caterpillar changes into a butterfly. The “pupa” stage can last a week or several depending on the species. During this time, a hardened case forms around the pupa to protect it from predators and extreme weather.
Stage 4: The Butterfly
Once the butterfly is ready to emerge, the case around the pupa splits open. But it’s not time for take off just yet, as the butterfly’s wings are wet, soft and wrinkled against its body. The butterfly waits for its wings to dry, and pumps a liquid called hemolymph into them so that they become big and strong. Once fit for flight, this brilliant bug then takes to the air in search for flowers to feed on and for other butterflies.
Now let’s see if you can create a ‘butterfly life cycle’ of your own.
Have a look at the examples we have included below to help you with ideas or maybe you can think of a different way of showing these 4 very different stages of the butterfly life cycle.
We think it might be time for a well deserved break and maybe a little snack.
Why don’t you get yourself comfortable and watch this brilliant animation of ‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar’ by Eric Carle … we just hope you're not as hungry as the caterpillar in this story!
You have probably heard this story lots of times before but now you know all about ‘metamorphosis’ see if you can spot the 4 stages in the butterfly life cycle.