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Marvelous Metamorphosis

Learn about how some bugs grow.

Image of ladybug resting on a plant

Certain insects - like butterflies, moths, bees, wasps, ants, and beetles - grow through a unique life cycle called complete metamorphosis.

Complete metamorphosis has four distinct stages: egg, larva, pupa, and adult. Beetles, such as ladybugs, are one kind of insect that grows through complete metamorphosis! 

How many different stages of ladybug metamorphosis can you find in your backyard? Use the Ladybug Metamorphosis Scavenger Hunt to tally up your findings!

Want to learn more about insects? Click here for more information. 

Materials

Instructions

1. Do your background research.
Using the Complete Metamorphosis Diagram below, look at each distinct stage of a ladybug's lifecycle: egg, larva, pupa, and adult. Take some notes about what characteristics, or features, a ladybug has in each stage. An insect in one stage often looks and behaves differently than it does in another! 

Life cycle of a ladybug
  • First, the insect is an egg: this is the ‘baby'. They stay in one place and grow.
  • Next, the egg hatches and out comes a larva. The larva is a ‘kid’ stage - it usually moves around and eats a lot (if you were a bug, you would be a larva right now)!
  • Then, the larva becomes a pupa. Pupas are the ‘teenage’ stage and they are "resting" in one place.
  • Finally, out of the pupa emerges an adult. Adults mate and lay eggs, starting the cycle again!

Note: The diagram only depicts the four distinct stages of complete metamorphosis and represents a generic bug. Each species of insect has different looking eggs, larva, pupa, and adult stages.

2. Conduct your ladybug scavenger hunt.
If you can safely explore outdoors, go outside and look on and under leaves to see how many different stages of ladybug metamorphosis you can find. You can use the "helpful hints" below to get some clues on where to look! Remember, the garden is a home to these insects, so please touch plants gently - we don't want to hurt them or animals living on them.

3. Tally up your findings.
Using the Ladybug Metamorphosis Scavenger Hunt Worksheet (or your own nature journal), put a tally mark next to each stage you see to document your findings. Note the time, date, and weather on your worksheet or in your journal if you want to repeat this activity in a different location or on a different day.

4. What more can you find?
Ladybugs aren't the only insects that go through complete metamorphosis! See if you can find different life stages of other insects, like cocoons of butterflies or moths, and note them in your findings. Use iNaturalist if you need help identifying what you've found!

Helpful Hints

Coccinella septempunctata eggs on a leaf

Gilles San Martin

Ladybug eggs are small, long, and usually yellow. Look on and under leaves or near protected areas. When you find eggs, see who is nearby - ladybugs like to lay eggs near bugs like aphids, scale insects, and mites!

Coccinella septempunctata (ladybug) larva

Gilles San Martin

Ladybug larva need to eat when they hatch, and most ladybug larva food are other bugs - often ones that eat plants. Larva can crawl around to reach their food, so look for a long, spiny bug that is pointy at the rear and has six legs near the head. Roses usually have a lot of aphids - one of ladybug's favorite foods!

Anatis ocellata pupa

Gilles San Martin

Ladybugs also usually pupate (become pupa) on leaves! Some ways to tell them apart from larva is that they don't have legs (they are anchored to the plant) and they look rounded like bulbs.

Adalia bipunctata (ladybug) adult

Gilles San Martin

When the pupa molts or sheds, it emerges as an adult ladybug!

1 of 1

Ladybug eggs are small, long, and usually yellow. Look on and under leaves or near protected areas. When you find eggs, see who is nearby - ladybugs like to lay eggs near bugs like aphids, scale insects, and mites!

Gilles San Martin

Ladybug larva need to eat when they hatch, and most ladybug larva food are other bugs - often ones that eat plants. Larva can crawl around to reach their food, so look for a long, spiny bug that is pointy at the rear and has six legs near the head. Roses usually have a lot of aphids - one of ladybug's favorite foods!

Gilles San Martin

Ladybugs also usually pupate (become pupa) on leaves! Some ways to tell them apart from larva is that they don't have legs (they are anchored to the plant) and they look rounded like bulbs.

Gilles San Martin

When the pupa molts or sheds, it emerges as an adult ladybug!

Gilles San Martin