Butterflies are part of the class of insects in the order Lepidoptera, along with the moths. Adult butterflies have large, often brightly colored wings, and conspicuous, fluttering flight. Butterfly fossils date to the Palaeocene, about 56 million years ago.
Butterflies have the typical four-stage insect life cycle. Winged adults lay eggs on the food plant on which their larvae, known as caterpillars, will feed. The caterpillars grow, sometimes very rapidly, and when fully developed pupate in a chrysalis. When metamorphosis is complete, the pupal skin splits, the adult insect climbs out and, after its wings have expanded and dried, it flies off. Some butterflies, especially in the tropics, have several generations in a year, while others have a single generation, and a few in cold locations may take several years to pass through their whole life cycle.
The educational experience of raising butterflies is something that your children will never forget. They will learn about the life cycle of the butterfly because they will watch the transformation day by day from the small caterpillar state all the way through the metamorphosis to a butterfly. The average lifespan for an adult butterfly is 20 to 40 days. Some species live no longer than three or four days; others may live up to six months.