Enquiry 2: Butterflies and their Environments

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Key questions

> What is a butterfly?
> What happens in a butterfly’s life?

Investigate butterfly life-cycles and habitats with the children and discuss how they can be affected by
outside factors.

Source a copy of ‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar’, by Eric Carle or similar book.

Learning outcomes

On completing these activities all children will be able to:
> describe a caterpillar, egg, chrysalis (pupa) and butterfly;
> recall some foods that caterpillars eat; and
> describe the life-cycle of a butterfly.


Butterfly eggs

Butterfly eggs -


Caterpillar -

Butterfly on a branch

Butterfly on a branch -


Butterfly -


  • ‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar’, by Eric Carle, (available in English and Irish from booksellers (ISBN: English 0-399-22690-7; Irish 9789999323376)
  • Resource sheet: Stages of the life-cycle of a butterfly (Investigation 02) - to be photocopied and cut into four pieces with a scissors.
  • Interactive ‘Life-Cycle of the Butterfly’ (alos included in the Eco Detective's pack CD-ROM)
Pdf Investigation 2: Stages of the life cycle of a butterfly
Size: 610.0K bytesModified:  7 February 2011, 16:51

Learning activities

1. Read the ‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar’ to the class. Discuss the stages of the life-cycle of a butterfly.

2. Complete the sorting activity using resource sheet: Stages of the life-cycle of a butterfly (Investigation 02).

  • Egg - The mother lays the egg, which is the size of a pinhead on a leaf. They lay the egg on a leaf so it has something to eat when it hatches.

  • Caterpillar - Like the Hungry Caterpillar, caterpillars eat large amounts of food, relative to their size, to keep growing (lasts for between 12-14 days).
  • Chrysalis (pupa) – The caterpillar grows a chrysalis (pupa) to protect itself as it changes. At this stage it is known as a pupa. The chrysalis (pupa) is usually attached to a twig (this stage usually lasts for about a week).
  • Butterfly - Comes out of the chrysalis (pupa). Takes about 2 hours before it can fly.

3. Children, in pairs, talk about the stages of the butterfly’s life.

• Depending on the time of year, teachers could use fieldwork again to find butterflies in the school grounds.
• There are many good animations of butterflies’ lives online, especially on YouTube, which could be used following
the card sort activity, as reinforcement.
• There are various packs, toys, etc. supplementing the Eric Carle book available in toyshops.