The Moth Lifecycle

Moth metamorphosis includes four life stages: egg, larva, pupa and adult.


Shortly after mating, a single female moth will release a batch of eggs in clusters, ranging from a few dozen at a time, to more than 10,000. The eggs will then hatch into a larval moth (the “caterpillar”).


The period of time between “laying” and “hatching” varies considerably among species, with incubation times being as short as a few days, to as long as several months in instances where moths overwinter in egg-form. Descriptive and familiar names are often assigned to caterpillars such as wooly bears, hornworms or inchworms. In this lifecycle stage, most moth caterpillars feed on plant foliage. 


Following the larva stage comes the pupa stage where the transformation to the adult form takes place. For moths, this often occurs within a silken case called a cocoon (butterflies form a different protective covering called a “chrysalis”).


For almost all moth species, adults have wings. Wings allow them to disperse, mate, and lay eggs, thus ensuring the legacy of their particular species. Depending on the geographic location, weather conditions, and species, some moths go through one generation per year whereas others may complete several, and a few even migrate during their lifecycle, similar to the well-documented migrations of the Monarch butterfly.