How long can butterflies live?

You may have noticed many butterflies fluttering around at this time of year. But the winged stage is only one stage of a butterfly’s life.

Butterflies’ lives are divided into four stages — first eggs, then larvae or caterpillars, then pupae, and finally adults. The time a butterfly spends going through these stages varies widely from species to species, and in different climates.

In colder climates, some butterflies spend an entire winter in one stage. For example, a butterfly may stay in the egg stage all winter while waiting for warm weather to give it the signal to hatch out. Other species of butterflies may spend an entire summer as adults. They wait for the autumn rains to begin laying their eggs. Some types of butterflies are so slow-growing that it takes them two full years to develop from egg to adult.

Usually, though, a butterfly’s adult life span is very short — often less than a week. What’s more, butterflies don’t have many defenses — and there are lots of hungry birds and other insect-eaters out there. Many butterflies cope with their short life span by laying lots of eggs — about 100 to 200 — very quickly.

Meanwhile, some species — such as the Cabbage White butterfly — survive with a different strategy. This species simply tastes bad to birds!

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