The primary goal for adult butterflies is to create the next generation, continuing the species. The complete development from egg to adult for a butterfly is about one month. There are more than 17,000 species of butterflies worldwide. They are important pollinators and are beneficial to the food chain, especially in the larvae stage.
The adult male butterfly dies six to eight weeks after all of the sperm has been depleted from their body. Male butterflies are ready to mate one hour after emerging from the pupa. They frequently will mate with a female butterfly as soon as she begins emerging from her pupa, even helping her to remove herself from it. The male mates with her immediately. This tactic of mating is easier on the male. The female is not able to fly away yet, it takes about one hour for her wings to dry after emerging from the pupa, giving the male the opportunity to mate with her. Adult male butterflies use up their sperm during adulthood by mating with a variety of female butterflies.
Female butterflies die after they have laid all of their eggs. Female butterflies are ready to mate immediately after emerging from the pupa. They mate only once in their lifetime, laying up to 100 eggs. Its common for her to lay single eggs or clusters. They lay the eggs on host plants that are also a food source for the developing egg. If a female doesn't mate immediately, she most likely never will. Not mating will prolong the female's life, she will then die from natural causes or succumb to a predator attack.
Loss of habitat is a common factor affecting the butterfly species. Changes made to residential areas, commercial sites and agricultural development are the main causes that are preventing butterflies from living in their natural habitat. Pesticides used on crops and plants also affect the health and life span of a butterfly, male or female.
Butterflies are cold-blooded insects. Cold weather causes butterflies to migrate south. If a butterfly has not migrated south for the winter, it will hibernate and wait for the warm weather to return. A winter blast can last up to four months, prolonging the life span of a butterfly, especially if it has not had the chance to mate before the cold weather arrives. Once the warmer weather arrives, the adult butterfly will continue its purpose in life and reproduce. If the cold weather arrives during the egg stage, the egg will not hatch until warm weather arrives. Once the weather warms the butterfly cycle will continue and a caterpillar will emerge.
- Goodshoot/Goodshoot/Getty Images