The Marvel of the Butterfly Cycle

  • They eat leaves! ~ four-year-old
  • They are so beautiful when they are caterpillars and when they are butterflies. ~ six-year-old
  • I just love seeing how they live when they are a caterpillar, when they are a butterfly. I just love seeing their life cycle. Tiny, tiny caterpillars are so cute! ~ nine-year-old

We’ve watched metamorphosis up close. A gulf fritillary caterpillar turn into a butterfly. Weeks worth of watching. But that was two years ago. This last almost-month is the second time we’ve had the privilege. And this time, Lil’ Buddy was enthralled. Littlest Girl noticed details. And Middle Girl handled them and cared for them so much.

You can read about the transformation of a caterpillar to butterfly in a book. But until you watch the stages for weeks in your own home, you haven’t really seen it.

My Aunt Mary Ann, true nature lover and gifted photographer of all she loves, has a yard designed for creatures. Birds and crawly things especially. She brought us three caterpillars and a passion fruit vine plant.

Gulf fritillary caterpillars will only eat passion fruit vine. So, when we ran out of what my Aunt Mary Ann gave us, she mounted a rescue effort and brought us even more (pictured above).

Caterpillar assuming the upside down position to form a chrysalis. It shortly transforms into what looks like a dried up leaf.

Another week – while we were waiting for our butterfly to emerge from its chrysalis – Aunt Mary Ann met us at my grandmother, Mama Ann’s house. She brought us freshly hatched caterpillars. Tiniest of tiny. She turned over a passion fruit vine leaf and we discovered several eggs. (Blurry caterpillar to the left and tiny egg directly to the right of it on the leaf).

A few days later and we were watching our first round – butterfly emerging from the chrysalis! Drying its wings.

Spreading and flapping.

“Are you ever simply amazed at God’s goodness? Down to the very last detail. Everything. So beautiful. So purposeful and so orderly.” ~Samuel Crowe

And a few hours later, setting free that gloriously beautiful and orange butterfly.

So that’s where we are now. One butterfly released. And watching tiny caterpillars grow bigger as they munch on their leaves of choice.

Marveling at the changes every day.

Looking forward to watching more butterflies dart straight up in the air out of the butterfly habitat!

Butterfly favorites:

Have you ever watched a caterpillar transform into a butterfly?


  1. 1


    You are so right about the difference between reading a book about butterflies and watching the process in real life as it happens. Even as an adult I marvel each time we go through this transformation. It wasn’t until recently that I knew that butterflies have “host” plants like your fritillary. How much better for our children to know these things as they grow up.

    Wonderful post. :)

  2. 3

    Mary Ann Teal says

    What an amazing transformation it is! Truly miraculous. Such fun to share, we should do a Calendar page on this, shouldn’t we.

  3. 4

    Nana says

    The life-cycle of these butterflies is so much like those of the children: first so tiny and helpless, then bigger as they eat the best foods to make them grow strong…those of us watching as they get older and stronger…then…letting them go….such lovely pictures and great post!!

  4. 5


    At our old house we had passion flowers and every year we brought many. many of these caterpillars in. They are so beautiful as butterflies! My kids absolutely loved them!

  5. 7


    I just couldn’t agree more with your comment about how different it is reading about metamorphosis in a book versus seeing it in real life, in your own home! It is true of so many things and one of my favorite parts of homeschooling is trying to let my children see and experience as much as they can in real life. Your photos and descriptions are truly wonderful.

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