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Virginia Gardener
Garden Pests and Problems: Insect Life Cycles and Metamorphosis
Insects go through many different changes, or metamorphosis, as they grow into
adults. The word “metamorphosis” is made up of two words: “meta” which means
change, and “morph” which means to change form. Some insects go through
complete metamorphosis, and others go through gradual metamorphosis.
Complete Metamorphosis
A butterfly goes through complete metamorphosis or, a complete life cycle. A
butterfly first hatches from an egg as a caterpillar. This is called the larval stage.
It is these caterpillars, or larval stages, which harm plants when they eat plant
leaves and stems. Once the caterpillar has eaten enough food and the
temperature is right, it wraps itself in a cocoon. At this stage, the insect is called a
pupa. When the caterpillar comes out of the pupa, it is a butterfly in the adult
stage. The butterfly will then lay eggs and the whole cycle is repeated.
In this picture label each stage of the butterfly's life cycle with the correct name.
Use the underlined words from the paragraph above.
The butterfly is not the only insect that goes through complete metamorphosis.
Other insects also change from a larval stage into adult insects. Soil grubs turn
into beetles, maggots turn into flies, and some types of caterpillars change into
moths rather than butterflies.
© This activity sheet is provided by the Department of Horticulture, Virginia Tech 407 Saunders Hall, Blacksburg VA, 24061-0327
Gradual Metamorphosis
Gradual metamorphosis is another insect life cycle. In gradual metamorphosis,
the insect hatches out of the egg and looks like a tiny adult. These young insects
are called nymphs. Nymphs go through several stages of growth where they
shed their outer covering. This process is called molting. After a number of molts
the nymph becomes an adult.
These insects can harm plants at all
stages of their life cycle. For example,
adult beetles eat plant leaves and their
nymphs eat plant roots or burrow into
tree trunks. List other examples of
insects that have this life cycle.
© This activity sheet is provided by the Department of Horticulture, Virginia Tech 407 Saunders Hall, Blacksburg VA, 24061-0327