Butterflies as a group, are probably the most beautiful of all insects. They are named for the yellow color of some common species of butterflies.

The butterfly has a large eye on each side of its head. Each eye is made up of a large number of tiny eyes. Some butterflies have as many as 20,000 of these tiny eyes crowded close together in each eye. The butterfly’s mouth has the shape of a long hollow tube, called a proboscis. The butterfly uses the proboscis to suck up the flower nectar on which it feeds.

The young of the butterflies are called caterpillars. These are long, soft, wormlike creatures that eat the leaves of plants. Nobody would guess that an ugly crawling caterpillar could develop into a creature with jewel-like wings and take a life in the air.

Actually, a butterfly passes through four distinct stages in its life’s span. These are the egg stage, the larva or caterpillar stage, the pupa stage, and the adult (butterfly) stage. A newly hatched larva is tiny, but it has an enormous appetite and grows very rapidly. When it is fully-grown it is ready to enter the quiet stage of its life, the pupa stage.

It is in the pupa stage that a most wonderful transformation takes place. The caterpillar sheds its skin, and becomes covered with an oddly shaped case of hard skin, called a cocoon. Inside the case great changes are going on. The whole body turns to a soft, creamy liquid, out of which the wings, legs and other parts of the adult butterfly are slowly formed. When the adult insect is ready to come out, the shell of the pupa splits open. The full-grown insect, weak and covered with moisture, then pushes its way out of the shell. The butterfly crawls onto a twig or other resting place. Gradually the wings unfold, becoming flat and stiff, and the butterfly is ready to fly away and begin its life in the air.


Remember where you came from: Only the Creator knows why a butterfly must first live the life of a caterpillar, and then spend some time in the dark prison-cell of the pupa, instead of coming out as a butterfly straight from its mother’s egg.

Perhaps the Creator meant to tell the butterfly, fluttering by and seemingly so proud of its sparking colors: “Don’t be so proud, butterfly! Remember where you came from…”

It is good for a person to remind himself occasionally that a human being passes through various stages in life, from infancy to old age. A baby doesn’t have much sense, has a wild temper, and is interested only in toys and the like. But through training and education the baby gradually passes through childhood, adolescence and maturity, becomes adult and continues to gain knowledge and wisdom. And that is quite a transformation from where the person was at birth. But there is no mystery about this transformation. G-d endows every person with a soul and with mental and spiritual capacities, which need to be fully utilized and constantly developed. It requires willpower and determination and consistent effort.

Techiyat Hameitim: One of the core beliefs in Judaism is Techiyat Hameitim – that when Moshiach comes, the dead will miraculously be brought back to life. The cycle of a butterfly’s life, and the emergence of a beautiful insect from a seemingly lifeless liquid, is an inspiring illustration of this belief. Although death seems to be the end of our cycle of life, in truth it is the beginning of a pupa-like stage, which will be followed by better form of life which is unimaginable today.



Listen to this butterfly flap its wings

Watch a video of Butterflies


As a caterpillar grows too large for its elastic skin, the old skin splits open and the caterpillar, with a new elastic skin, crawls out of its old skin and begins feeding and growing further. The shedding of the skin is called molting. A caterpillar molts 4-5 times before it is fully grown.

A butterfly emerges from the pupa fully grown; it will never grow any bigger as long as it lives.

The biggest butterfly is the female Queen Alexandra Birdwing that lives in the Australian rain forests, with a wingspan of over eleven inches!

Caterpillars have many enemies. They are eaten by birds as well as by various insects. If they had no enemies they would exist in enormous numbers and would do great damage to plants. But many caterpillars survive, for the Creator has endowed them with various defenses. Most caterpillars have dense coats of hair that make them taste bad. Some caterpillars give off an unpleasant scent. Others are colored so that they are hard to see among the vegetation in which they live.

Parent's Tip:

Talk about how sometimes it is okay to look, but not touch. A butterfly’s wing is so fragile that if you touch it, even if you don’t break the wing, you will damage the colorful scales and the butterfly will die.


While the butterflies seem to be just flitting around, having a good time and sipping nectar, they are actually fulfilling an important task: they are spreading pollen and helping the flowers reproduce.

“The footsteps of man are directed by G-d” (Psalms 37:23). Wherever we go, we have a mission to accomplish. Like butterflies, we can help others and accomplish good things everywhere we go, even when we are having fun.

Butterflies are not just beautiful, they are very important plant pollinators. They also serve as food for all kinds of animals, especially as caterpillars.