How Long Do Butterflies Live?


One of the most well-liked insects that people like seeing is the butterfly. But did you know that butterflies only have those lovely moments to themselves? What is the lifespan of butterflies?

Butterflies have a lifespan of one month to one year. Depending on the species, they may live shorter or longer lives, with tropical species often living longer. Adult butterflies have a life expectancy of 2-4 weeks. Butterflies need the correct nutrition, habitat, and general health to live longer.

It’s wonderful to have butterflies around. They are not only fascinating to see, but they are also very good for the environment.

Understanding the struggles that butterflies face in order to survive may be made easier by learning about their life cycle. All of the information you require will be covered in this handbook.

Let’s begin.

How long do butterflies live?

How long do butterflies live?

An mature butterfly’s life expectancy is roughly one month, according to statistics. However, some species can endure for up to a year. Accordingly, some butterflies have a lifespan that is 12 times longer than others.

The enormous variety is caused by the challenges that butterflies experience in their daily lives. Climate, predators, and even the species are all included in this.

It’s crucial to understand that various sources frequently determine a butterfly’s lifespan based on its mature stage. However, before becoming adults, butterflies go through a few different life stages. They often take 3–4 weeks before becoming an adult.

Butterfly life cycle stages

The barriers to a butterfly’s survival can vary depending on where it is in its life cycle. Let’s examine each phase.


Every day, female butterflies lay clutches of 10 to 100 eggs. In their brief adult life, they lay a further 300–400 eggs. Only 8–10 of the hundreds of eggs produced will survive.

Once laid, the eggs are exposed since they are unprotected. Because the butterflies don’t come back to tend to the eggs, predators will eat them.

By placing the eggs out of sight, the females are attempting to secure the survival of the eggs. Additionally, they use host plants that the caterpillars can feed on after emerging from the eggs.


The butterfly eggs hatch into larvae after 3–6 days. Caterpillars are a more frequent name for butterfly larvae.

The caterpillar’s task is to consume as much food as possible in order to develop swiftly. Because they can move around, caterpillars are much easier for predators like birds to see.

The caterpillars are prepared to transition to the following life stage after two weeks of nonstop feasting.


When the caterpillars reach a certain size, they will adhere to a leaf and spin a cocoon. They will remain here until they change within the cocoon into their adult form.

Because they can’t move to defend themselves, butterflies that remain still make themselves once more exposed to predators.

The duration of this phase of the butterfly’s life cycle is one to three weeks.


Adult butterflies are weak as they emerge. They now inhabit a completely different form, soaring instead of crawling to get about. They are at risk because of their inexperience as they learn how to use this new mode of transportation.

However, as they learn to fly, it increases their protection from predators. They may now take flight and defend themselves physically.

The cycle will then begin again when butterflies find a partner and lay eggs. Males pass away shortly after mating, whereas females do so shortly after all of their eggs are laid. Depending on the species, this procedure can take a few weeks to months.

How do butterflies die?

Butterflies can become vulnerable at various times throughout their lives. The fact is that their ability to survive will be impacted by the circumstances they face. Some butterflies are fortunate enough to be exempt from some of these problems, which prolongs their lives.

Let’s examine the causes of a butterfly’s demise.

1. Food availability

Amazing insects like butterflies require a lot of food to survive. Both adult butterflies and caterpillars require a lot of plants to survive.

Although unexpected, the adult butterflies eat a wide variety of foods, which you may read about in this article on the butterfly’s diet. Adult butterflies primarily consume nectar.

The issue is that numerous other species, such as bees, hummingbirds, and birds, are vying for the same food as the butterflies.

The amount of food a butterfly may consume is impacted by the availability of flowers. Due to farming methods and sophisticated landscaping in urban yards, fewer flowers grow each year.

Hungry butterflies lack the energy necessary to fly, search for new food, mate, or escape predators.

2. Predators

Since butterflies are insects, they are at the bottom of the food chain. They produce good food for larger creatures, in other words. One of the major dangers to the survival of butterflies in the wild is predators.

Typical butterflies’ predators include:

  • Birds
  • Spiders
  • Wasps
  • Frogs
  • Ants
  • Lizards
  • Toads
  • Rats

The majority of butterflies perish before they mature into adults. They cannot fly away from surrounding predators, which explains why.

Many predators may consume caterpillars because they are large, juicy, and a great supply of water and protein.

The caterpillar changes its color depending on the species to defend itself. They can remain hidden by their green coloration.

Utilizing hues like red, black, and yellow to fend off predators is another strategy. They interpret these hues as potentially toxic.

Some predators can be evaded by adult butterflies using flight. But they still have a problem with birds.

The colors and patterns of adult butterflies’ wings are one method of fending off predators. You’ll see that the wings of butterflies frequently have sizable black circles. Predators may believe that they are owl eyes as a result of this.

Again, the butterflies’ vivid colour on their wings serves as a warning that they can be deadly. Other butterflies might adopt a more camouflage-like hue to help them blend in with their surroundings and stay safe.

3. Disease and parasites

The length of a butterfly’s life is significantly influenced by its general health. The main danger to their health that might cause illness or death is disease and parasites.

The following ailments and parasites commonly found in butterflies are:

  • Lepidopteran infection
  • Brucid wasps
  • The tachinid fly
  • Baculovirus
  • Electrocytis ophyrocytis

Due of the butterfly’s immobility during the egg and pupa stages, parasites frequently enter these stages.

Certain parasites, mites, and viruses can coexist with butterflies as their host. However, by depriving them of essential nutrients, they will reduce their lifespan.

The butterflies frequently succumb to parasites and diseases at some point in order to complete their own life cycle.

4. Injury

Butterflies are vulnerable to serious injury since they are delicate flying insects. A hurt butterfly’s chances of using flight to acquire food or escape surrounding predators are slim.

A significant portion of butterfly injuries are caused by people. Pesticide use is increasing, which is a serious issue for butterfly populations. Pesticides quickly poison butterflies that come into touch with them due to their severe toxicity.

Pesticides are used by farmers and gardeners to ward off dangerous insects. However, helpful pollinators like butterflies are also exterminated.

The usage of insect traps or glue is another prevalent cause of harm to butterflies. These traps readily ensnare them, and they pass away from famine or wounds.

In the outdoors, butterflies are also susceptible to natural damage. When escaping predators, they frequently break their wings or legs. Additionally, they are helplessly trapped in spider webs and unable to escape.

5. Climate

Since butterflies are insects, they are endothermic and absorb heat from their surroundings. If the temperature is too low, the butterfly will be unable to move and may even perish.

To survive the winter, the majority of butterfly species go to regions with warmer weather. They can roam around and find plants that are common in these areas thanks to the heat.

During cold temperatures, a butterfly that has entered a dormant state is susceptible. It’s conceivable that hungry predators will eat it.

The amount of humidity also has a significant impact on the life cycle of the butterfly. A butterfly will become dehydrated if there is insufficient humidity, especially while it is a pupa.

Intense rain and wind can also be harmful to butterflies. Injury risk is higher when these meteorological conditions are present.

Butterfly life cycle stages

6. Species

For a variety of factors, the species of butterfly will significantly affect how long it survives.

An important factor in a butterfly’s longevity is size. Greater butterfly species typically have longer lifespans than lesser species. It is straightforward biology since the smaller butterflies’ rapid metabolism causes them to deteriorate faster.

The species will also determine elements like the climates in which the butterflies will live. Some butterflies will travel thousands of kilometers during their migration, which imposes more physical burden on them than those who don’t.

But depending on where they are in the planet, species that don’t migrate run the risk of having inadequate food supply and unfavorable weather.

In some places, the habitat itself might pose a greater threat. A certain species of butterfly’s habitat can be destroyed by humans. Additionally, they can be more vulnerable to severe weather events like hurricanes or storms.

Let’s examine some common butterfly species’ lifespans.

Average Life Span of Butterfly Species

species of butterfliesEgg stage on averageLarval stage on averagetypical Pupae stagetypical adult stageWhole Lifetime
Monarch3-5 days2 weeks1-2 weeks2-6 weeks1 to 2 months
RED ADVOCATE7 days3 weeks1 week10- to 11-months13 to 14 months
Swallowtail, black4-9 days2-4 weeks2-3 weeks2-6 weeks2 to 4 months
Painted Woman3-5 days2-3 weeks10 days2-3 weeks2 to 4 months
Indigo Morpho7-14 days8 weeks2 weeks2-3 weeks4 to 6 months
United States Copper9-12 days3 weeks2 weeks2-3 weeks2 to 3 months
Oriental Tiger Swallowtail3-5 days3-4 weeks1-3 weeks1-2 weeks1 to 2 months
Death’s Cloak10 days2-3 weeks2 weeks10- to 11-months13 to 14 months
Viceroy6-8 days3-4 weeks1-2 weeks3-4 weeks2 to 3 months
Typical Buckeye4-14 days2-4 weeks1-2 weeks1-3 weeks2 to 3 months
An asterisk4-14 days3-4 weeks1-3 weeks1-3 weeks1 to 3 months

How to help butterflies live longer

Although butterflies don’t live very long, the advantages they get in such a short time are incredible. The good news is that there are things you can do to improve their quality of life while also lessening your influence over them.

Here are 5 ways that you may promote the longevity of butterflies.

1. Plant lots of flowers

Having a lot of flowers and plants around will best benefit butterflies. These won’t just give adult butterflies a lot of nectar. Additionally, they need areas to lay their eggs.

Plants that produce nectar are a surefire way to draw butterflies. However, there is a lot of foliage from trees and hedges that can be used as cover during poor weather.

Use window boxes if you don’t have enough space to plant a lot of flowers. Or maintain a tiny weedy, grassy, wildflower-filled area. Additionally, you can discover how to prepare and distribute butterfly nectar in your yard.

2. Don’t use pesticide

If you’re an avid gardener, you presumably already know that pests are your worst nightmare. If given the chance, they’ll eliminate all of your precious plants over night. So applying insecticides to prevent them from spreading seems like a fantastic idea.

The issue is that insecticides also kill off butterflies and other helpful insects. Like the bothersome insects, they are poisoned by the pesticides.

Other animals, like birds, are severely harmed by pesticides. Encourage birds and insects like ladybugs to visit your yard for the finest natural pest management.

3. Offer food

Even though butterflies have a rather diverse diet, offering flowers is an excellent method to give them with food. Butterflies actually enjoy eating overripe fruit.

Try to leave a pile of overripe fruit out for the butterflies if you have fruit trees in your yard. They prefer it when it is beginning to decay and get mushy.

The fruit should be put on an elevated platform feeder since otherwise, pest animals like raccoons or rodents can be drawn to your yard.

4. Provide shelter

For butterflies, shelter can be quite important, especially in bad weather conditions like rain or strong gusts.

A sturdy rocky cleft, a tree, or dense vegetation make excellent hiding places. By including these in your landscaping, you will be assisting the butterflies.

You may have noticed artificial butterfly sanctuaries in the shape of a bug motel (this one is a bestseller). They can be hit or miss with butterflies, but it would be worthwhile to give them a shot.

Places to hide during the pupae stage or to spend the winter are other types of shelter that a butterfly needs. Since they must remain hidden from predators, they require refuge.

Butterflies love old plant stems and leaf litter. Try to wait until temperatures start to climb above 50°F (10°C) before cleaning up the organic muck that plants leave behind over the winter. During this period, it’s likely that butterflies will continue to hibernate and may be accidently killed when you clean up.

5. Don’t use traps

Although using traps to catch flying insects may seem like the perfect answer, butterflies frequently die when caught in them.

How long do butterflies live in captivity?

1-3 weeks

2-3 months

The advantages that butterflies have in such a short time are astonishing considering their brief lifespan. The good news is that you can try to lessen your impact on them while simultaneously maximizing their lives.

Final Thoughts

Giving butterflies a lot of plants and flowers to eat is the best method to assist them. In addition to giving adult butterflies a lot of nectar, these also contain. more nesting locations for them.

The best technique to draw butterflies is with nectar-producing plants. In inclement weather, however, there is a lot of foliage from trees and hedges that can be used as cover.

Utilize window boxes if you lack the space to plant a large number of flowers. Keep a tiny patch of untamed land that is overgrown with weeds, tall grasses, and wildflowers. Learn how to create butterfly nectar and distribute it around your yard.


Like it? Share with your friends!

Sarah Green

Wildlife and Nature Fan & Author