The Life Cycle of Insects with Metamorphosis

  • The Life Cycle of Insects with Metamorphosis
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    Hits the standard: 3-LS1-1
    3-LS1-1: From molecules to Organisms: Structures and Processes
    Figure 1: Render of the 3-D printed Butterfly Life Cycle model.

    Develop models to describe that organisms have unique and diverse life cycles but all have in common birth, growth, reproduction, and death.

    Lesson Brief: Different groups of animals have different life cycles. All animals are born, develop into the adult stage, reproduce, and eventually die. Within the insect group of animals there are two main types of life cycle. The more ancient types of insects have direct development, while the more modern insects have indirect development and go through metamorphosis. This lesson and the accompanying model cover the life cycle of insects that go through metamorphosis.
    The more modern groups of insects go through a major change in form and function, metamorphosis. These insects include beetles, flies, butterflies & moths, and others. Almost all insect life cycles begin by leaving the mother as eggs. In the insects with indirect development, a larva, a worm-like young insect, hatches from the egg. These larvae are adapted to do one thing well: eat so that they can grow. They have simple bodies without wings, and sometimes do not even have legs. Caterpillars have extra “prolegs” that are not real legs but help them to hold onto plants as they eat. They get bigger by shedding their shell or exoskeleton and making a new larger one. This can happen 3 to 5 times as they get larger. When they are done eating and growing, they go through a very different type of growth stage called a pupal stage. The pupal stage is when the larva turns into an adult. The adult stage is shorter than the larval growth stage. The adult stage is winged and has legs. Adults eat less than the larvae. The adults move much more than the larvae and reproduce by laying eggs, completing the life cycle.

    Activity: Print out enough 3-D models of the butterfly life cycle (Figure 1) for students to have individually or in groups. This model is based upon the monarch butterfly. Ask students to write out the role of each of the four life cycle stages (egg, larval stages, pupa, and adult) are adapted to different roles in the development of the insect. Students may paint the model if desired. If students do paint the model, prime it first with an acrylic spray or brush-on primer. If this lesson is done in groups, each student may be responsible for painting and/or explaining one of the stages.


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