Third Grade Integrated NGSS
Life Cycles, Growth and Development


Comparing moths with butterflies.


  • Compare difference between butterflies and moths.
  •  Contrast life cycles of butterflies and moths.      .
  •  Cocoon  
  • Chrysalis
  • proboscis

·         Plastic models of moth and butterflies

·         Painted Lady (storybook)

·         Silkworm cocoons

·         Chrysalis of monarch

·         Monarch Life Cycle Wheel

·         Scissors

·         Crayons

·         brads

VIDEO:  monarch egg to butterfly

How to tell a male from a female monarch


Moths and butterflies belong to the group called the Lepidoptera. They are medium to large sized insects with mouthparts reduced to form a coiled tube for sucking liquid food  (proboscis). They have antennae that are long and often feathery. They have large compound eyes with two pairs of large and showy wings. Wings have overlapping scales and moths are often hairy. The abdomen or stomach parts have ten segments. Butterflies which sleep at night, have slim bodies and clubbed antennae and rest with wings folded over their back, the hind wings almost covering the forewings. Moths, which are awake at night, never have clubbed antennae and rest with the wings in various positions.

Moths and butterflies go through four life stages: egg, caterpillar, pupa, and adult. The length of the life cycle varies from species to species. Butterflies and moths both lay eggs which hatch into caterpillars of different shapes and sizes depending on the species. The caterpillar feeds usually on leaves and grows very rapidly. It molts (sheds) its skin and develops a new one as the body grows. The metamorphosis begins when the caterpillar uses silk to attach to a plant. The skin hardens to form a chrysalis (for a butterfly) a cocoon for a moth. Within the chrysalis and the cocoon the caterpillar changes to the butterfly and moth respectively. In the adult stage the main purpose is to eat and to lay eggs. Butterflies and moths usually only live for several weeks

Main differences (generally) between butterflies and moths

·         Butterflies fly by day and most moths by night

·         At rest butterflies hold their wings closed together over their backs whilst moths rest with their wings spread out sideways

·         Butterfly antennae are long, thin and clubbed at the end, most moth antennae are shorter and feathery


1.     Read the Painted Lady and go over the information at the end, especially the difference between a moth and a butterfly.  Stress that there are many types of butterflies and moths and their specific color, egg, chrysalis, caterpillar, and adult all look different.

2.    Let the students look at the models of the Luna Moth and Monarch butterfly.  Have them put it in the correct order. Have a discussion that brings the students to compare and contrast.


Life Cycle of a Monarch Butterfly

Eggs:  Monarch butterflies lay their eggs on individual milkweed plant leaves which are specifically chosen by this species for this purpose (host plant).  The process from egg to adult butterfly is about 6 weeks.


Caterpillar (Larva):  The caterpillar hatches from the egg in 3-12 days.  As soon as it emerges, the caterpillar begins to eat milkweed leaves that are toxic to many insects but not to the caterpillar.


Chrysalis (Pupa):  The caterpillar encases itself in a beautiful jade green shell with gold markings.  This coloration camouflages the shell from birds while inside the caterpillar begins the transformation into a butterfly.


Adult (Butterfly):  When the butterfly is mature it emerges from the chrysalis.  The Monarch’s wings are folded up and they must be pumped up by the butterfly in order to straighten them.  Once the wings are dry the butterfly can fly.  After 2 to 5 weeks the adult butterfly will reproduce and lay eggs.


Life Cycle of a Luna Moth


Eggs:  An adult female moth typically lays around 200 eggs in small groups of 6-10 eggs on the underside of leaves.  After about ten days on the underside of leaves.  After about ten days, small caterpillars will eat their way out of the tiny eggs.


Caterpillar (Larva): The newborn caterpillar constantly feeds, eating several leaves daily.   As it grows the caterpillar will molt, crawling out of its old skin having formed a fresh, new skin underneath.  It will grow to its full size of about 2 inches (5 cm) long.


Cocoon (Pupa): The caterpillar pulls a leaf around itself and spins a cocoon, a protective covering, winding thread around its body.   After a week, the caterpillar becomes a pupa where it will transform into a moth.  Three weeks later, the adult moth will push itself free.


Adult (Moth):  At first, the Luna Moth’s wings are soft and wet.  I must immediately find a place to hang and dry its wings before it can fly away.  An adult moth does not eat, living for about one week during which it will find a mate and reproduce.



3.    Have the students make a monarch “life cycle wheel.”   Stress to use the models to make the Monarch realistic with color and patterns.

4.  Show the video of the monarch lifecycle.

5.  Want to grow monarch butterflies at your school.  You will need to learn more about milkweed.  We suggest the Xerces - NCRS  Native Milkweed of California

OPTIONAL:  Students like to be able to tell if the butterfly or moth is a boy or a girl.  For Monarchs males have spots on their hind wings and females have thicker black veins. 

(If they ask, for the luna moth, the males have bushier antenna.)


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