Life Cycle

Insect Lifecycles

Object Type: Video Clip
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Insect Lifecycles

Students learn about simple metamorphosis, complete metamorphosis, and the entire insect lifecycle. Includes live close-up footage of a painted lady butterfly, waxworm moth, silkworm, milkweed bug, and more. Detailed animations give students a unique perspective of the world's largest animal group.

Explore the amazing changes, called metamorphosis, insects go through from eggs to adults.

  1. Students will identify the characteristics of an insect. Insects are small animals with a head, a thorax, an abdomen, and six legs. All insects start their lives as eggs. These eggs can be different colors, shapes, sizes, and patterns.
  2. Students will understand the process of metamorphosis. The change that occurs when an insect egg hatches and grows into an adult is called metamorphosis, meaning "to change in form."
    1. Simple Metamorphosis: Insects that undergo simple metamorphosis experience three phases: egg, nymph, and adult. When the insect hatches from the egg it is called a nymph. Nymphs look like the adult insects, but they are much smaller and do not have wings. As the nymph grows it becomes too large for its exoskeleton and it molts, shedding its old shell for a new one. An insect will molt many times. The last time it molts, its wings come out and the insect is an adult.
    2. Complete Metamorphosis: There are four phases of complete metamorphosis: egg, larva, pupa, and adult. When the egg hatches, the insect that comes out, the larva, looks very different from the adult. There are many different kinds of larvae; some have legs like caterpillars and some have no legs at all. The larva spends all of its time eating and growing, molting in the process. When it stops growing, the larva makes a protective covering, becoming a pupa. Although the pupa appears still, the insect is changing and emerges as an adult.
  3. Students will know the lifecycle of an insect. Once insects go through metamorphosis, the adult insect spends its life finding food, mating, and laying eggs. Some insects lay many eggs at once, and others lay only one at a time. When the new eggs hatch, the new insects go through metamorphosis to become adults, completing the cycle. When the next generation of adults lays eggs, the cycle starts over again. Some insects have short lifecycles of just a day or two, and others can live for decades.

  1. Pasta Lifecycle: Use pasta to show the lifecycle of a butterfly. Use cavatelli for the caterpillar, small circles for the eggs, shells for the chrysalis and bow ties for the butterfly. Glue them onto a piece of construction paper folded into 4 parts. Draw arrows to define the stages of the lifecycle. Have students label each phase.
  2. Pantomime: After watching the video, divide students into two groups. One group represents simple metamorphosis; the other represents complete metamorphosis. Have each group work out a way to show the other group what happens in their version of the lifecycle through pantomime. This activity can be done in pairs or small groups as well.


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