Generally speaking, we believe that most of the caterpillars we come across in the garden will turn into butterflies. However, this may not always be the case. So, do all caterpillars turn into butterflies or not?
No, not all caterpillars turn into butterflies. Some caterpillars can turn into moths, instead. The process for turning from a caterpillar into a butterfly and moth is similar.
Not all caterpillars will become butterflies. Although the process is the same, somewhere along the line, there is an aspect that determines whether a caterpillar turns into a butterfly or a moth.
Are There Caterpillars That Don’t Turn into Butterflies?
Both butterflies and moths will lay eggs that hatch and reveal small caterpillars. The caterpillars go through the process of metamorphosis, which transforms them into moths or butterflies.
The process of metamorphosis begins because the caterpillar will not produce the hormone which keeps it in its larval stage. The caterpillar will start forming the cocoon, which enables the birth of a moth or butterfly.
Many caterpillars out there will not turn into butterflies but transform into moths instead. But, there is no one rule.
Unfortunately, there is no way to tell whether a caterpillar will turn into a butterfly or a moth. Caterpillars that turn into butterflies or moths both have similar features, and it becomes difficult to distinguish between them.
How Do You Tell if a Caterpillar Will be a Moth or Butterfly?
While it is not an easy task to determine between caterpillars that will turn into either moths or butterflies, you can still look into details to figure out.
A caterpillar with fuzz is likely to turn into a moth. On the other hand, caterpillars that transform into butterflies will not have fuzz or hair but will have spikes.
Some caterpillars do not have either of the things but have smooth skin. These caterpillars can turn into either moths or butterflies.
In addition, caterpillars that turn into butterflies will transform through a chrysalis which is a hard covering. Moths will hang inside cocoons made from silk. Moths in cocoons will also spend time in soil, whereas butterfly chrysalis is not found in the soil.
How Does a Caterpillar Turn into a Butterfly?
The process by which a caterpillar turns into a butterfly is known as metamorphosis.
A butterfly will lay hundreds of eggs. Out of these many eggs, only a few will survive. The eggs are looked after and, if provided with the right environment, will hatch into larvae, which is the caterpillar.
When the caterpillar is born, it is quite small, but it will continue to grow with the consumption of food and nectar. Caterpillars can grow to be more than a hundred times more than their size from when they were born.
The larvae have to eat a lot to gain energy and develop their organs. These insects spend a lot of their time eating leaves. Once the larva has gained enough, it will stop eating.
This is when the caterpillar’s body will cease to produce the hormone that lets it stay a larva. The caterpillar cannot live in the same body anymore and has to transform.
Moving on, the caterpillar will not consume anything during the process. This is when the cocoon or chrysalis will begin to form. The caterpillar inside the cocoon will turn into an adult moth or butterfly.
The pupa is the cocoon that firms are susceptible to attacks by other animals. The caterpillar inside will convert into a substance like soup. All the limbs, tissues and imaginal discs will change, moving to the right places for the caterpillar to turn into a butterfly.
The entire metamorphosis process takes place over a period of weeks, after which the caterpillar looks completely different from a butterfly.
The butterfly that emerges will stretch its legs and antenna and pump hemolymph, a blood-like substance, to its wings so that it can fly. In addition, the butterfly waits for the wings to dry and reach their full size to be able to fly. Afterwards, the butterfly will fly off to look for a mate to begin the process again.
Do Butterflies Remember Their Lives as Caterpillars?
Since butterflies transform into an entirely new insect, many people wonder if caterpillars remember their previous life. But unfortunately, there has been no conclusive research or study which indicates that butterflies remember what it was like to be a caterpillar.
We know that caterpillars turn into butterflies, as it is our first assumption. However, not all caterpillars will. These insects can sometimes turn into moths. It is not easy to tell whether a caterpillar will become a butterfly or a moth.
Caterpillars that turn into moths are hairier, while those which turn into butterflies have spikes. Caterpillars with smooth skin can turn into either, however.
Caterpillars will turn into moths or butterflies through a process called metamorphosis. Once the egg hatches, the caterpillar will eat food to grow big and strong. Afterwards, the caterpillar will form a cocoon and transform into a butterfly or moth in a few weeks.
Ryan is a keen gardener from the UK who’s spent years dealing with countless, common pests over the years so knows the ins and outs of how to deal with pests in the garden