How Does a Caterpillar Change Into a Butterfly?

by Lacy Enderson ; Updated September 28, 2017

How Does a Caterpillar Change Into a Butterfly?

Building the Cocoon

A caterpillar, when it is fully grown, secretes a long stream of liquid from its glands, called the spinneret, located below its mouth. The liquid stiffens forming a silk like thread which is used to attach its hind end to a twig or leaf. The caterpillar spins the silky thread around its body to form a covering. This outside layer hardens to form a shell called a chrysalis.

The Transformation Process

Inside the cocoon the caterpillar changes into a pupa. In a process called histolysis, the caterpillar digests itself from the inside out, causing its body to die. During this partial death, some of the caterpillar's old tissues are salvaged to form new. This remnant of cells are called the histoblasts and are used to create a new body. Using its digestive juices, the caterpillar turns his old larval body into food which he uses to rebuild its new body.

Breaking Out of the Shell

Once the pupa has fully grown inside the cocoon, and the butterfly is ready to emerge, the insect releases a fluid which softens the shell. The butterfly pushes on the walls of the shell until it breaks open. The process of a caterpillar turning into a butterfly can take anywhere from 10 days to several months.

Our Everyday Video

Brought to you by LEAFtv
Brought to you by LEAFtv

Photo Credits


About the Author

Lacy Enderson is an Addictions and Recovery Counselor. She is Certified with the American Association of Christian Therapists and holds a Master's Degree in Biblical Counseling. She is currently enrolled in Liberty University's Master of Divinity Degree program with Chaplaincy. Lacy is a graduate of Rhema Correspondent Bible School and has completed the first section of Berean School of the Bible. Lacy is the author of, "Addiction: A Personal Story" and "So You Want to Lose Weight But You Can't Stop Eating." Her newest novel is a teenage Christian fiction titled, "Honey Sweetheart."