Many different colored butterflies on flowers in a garden

Butterflies and Life Cycles

Grade 3

Like all animals, butterflies and insects have unique life cycles. They are born, they grow, and they will eventually die. What are the similarities and differences between the life cycles of butterflies and other organisms? We will explore that question in this lesson.


Teacher's Guide and Related Standards


I can describe the similarities and differences between butterfly and other animal life cycles.

Essential Questions

  • What are the stages of a butterfly life cycle?
  • How do the life cycles of butterflies, insects, and animals compare and differ?

Maryland Farm & Harvest Clip

Thinking questions:

  • Why is the West Virginia white butterfly population declining, making it an endangered species in Maryland?
  • What happens when butterflies lay their eggs on the leaves of garlic mustard plants?
  • What happens during a butterfly’s life cycle?


Supplemental Enrichment Activites

Developing and Using Models

Butterfly Life Cycle Model

View the Butterfly Life Cycle Model with students. Have them label where they think these five stages of a life cycle should go:

  • Reproduction
  • Birth
  • Growth
  • Adult organism
  • Death

» Go to Life Cycle Model

Growth and Development of Organisms

The Salmon Life Cycle

Have students watch the video and then describe the four stages of the salmon life cycle. Have students compare this life cycle to that of butterflies and other animals. What do they all have in common? What’s different about them?


» Go to Video


Different Life Cycles

Analyze the life cycles of the four organisms shown in the images. Have students identify the patterns that all of these species have in common regarding their life cycles

Have students debate which two organisms (of the four shown) they think have the most similar life cycles.

» Go to Life Cycles Image

Career Connections

This learning resource is a production of Maryland Public Television/Thinkport.