Life Cycle

Illustration of the Life-cycle of the Marsh Fritillary Butterfly.

All butterflies and moths [lepidoptera] have a four stage life cycle. The stages are: egg, larva or caterpillar, pupa or chrysalis and finally the adult butterfly. Most Irish butterflies take a full year to complete their life cycle while others can fit two or more broods or generations during a full year. Here is the life cycle of one of our rarer butterflies, the Marsh Fritillary.

Marsh Fritillary eggs.©J.Harding.

Marsh Fritillary eggs are laid in May/June on the underside of a leaf of the caterpillar’s foodplant, the Devil’s-bit Scabious. Its eggs take about 30 days or longer to hatch.

Marsh Fritillary larval nest.©J.Harding.

Marsh Fritillary larvae live colonially within a protective web from August to March. These Marsh Fritillary larvae will spin a stronger web in which they will spend the winter.

Marsh Fritillary larvae after hibernation©J.Harding..

These Marsh Fritillary larvae emerged from hibernation in early spring. They are basking together in order to increase their body temperature in order to digest their food.

Final stage Marsh Fritillary larva.©J.Harding.

Mature larvae feed independently. This one is fully grown and is ready to form a pupa [chrysalis] in which it will undergo metamorphosis [change its shape] to become an adult butterfly. It is ready to pupate in late April-mid-May.

Marsh Fritillary pupa.©J.Harding.

This is a Marsh Fritillary pupa. It is attached to a leaf by a silken pad spun by the larva.

Marsh Fritillary, male; the sexes look similar but the female is usually larger.©J.Harding.

Here is a freshly emerged Marsh Fritillary Butterfly. The butterfly is ready to mate to start the life-cycle process again. The female butterfly often mates and lays eggs on the day she emerges from her chrysalis.