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Butterfly Life Cycle Activities for Elementary Students

Why Use Butterflies in Your Classroom?

ButterflyButterflies demonstrate many important principles and concepts of biology, including life cycles, food chains, animal behavior, and structure and function. The painted lady butterfly (Vanessa cardui), commonly found throughout North America, is widely used in science classes.

The activities in the free e-book Butterfly Activities are meant to be completed while observing the life cycle of the painted lady butterfly. If this is your first time raising butterflies, we recommend our Butterflies in the Classroom Kit, which includes butterfly larvae and the materials necessary to raise the caterpillars to adults. You can replenish it with the Butterflies in the Classroom Kit Refill.

Download the E-Book Shop Butterflies

Butterfly Care

For information on the care of butterflies, view our interactive care guide.

How to Care for Painted Lady Butterfly Cultures

Learn about painted ladies in the larval, pupal, and adult stages, with emphasis on the larval stage. This video covers habitat setup, maintenance, care, and feeding, along with some answers to frequently asked questions about painted ladies.


Butterfly Life Cycle Worksheets

Integrate the study of butterflies into your curriculum with these resources. You can download each one or get the e-book Butterfly Activities. (It includes all the activities in a reproducible format.)

Butterfly Observations, Story Book, and Calendar

Life Cycle Wheel and Diagram

Butterfly Anatomy

Butterfly Word Searches

Butterfly Word Practice and Glossary

Butterfly Crossword Puzzle and Maze Worksheets

Butterfly Symmetry

Butterfly Crafts

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Inquiry Activity on Butterflies

In the elementary-level inquiry activity “Which Leaf Shape Can Hold the Most Butterfly Eggs?” students investigate the relationship between leaf shape and the number of butterfly eggs that can be laid on a leaf. Students build on their knowledge of the painted lady butterfly life cycle to assess which leaf shape can hold the most eggs.

The activity promotes spatial thinking, proportion and scale, and measurement. It can be conducted individually or in a small group. You can assign every leaf shape to all students, one shape to a student, or all leaf shapes to a group of students depending on time.

View the Activity

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