Butterflies go through complete metamorphosis, having four stages in their life cycle: egg, larva, pupa and adult. The female will lay her eggs on plants where the caterpillars will have a ready source of food.
Some butterflies lay eggs singly; others will lay them in clusters. Eggs are laid in spring, summer or autumn, depending on the species. Caterpillars are extremely vulnerable to predators so the females will lay hundreds of eggs as only a small percentage will reach adulthood. Environmental factors and species will often determine how long it takes for the eggs to hatch. Once the larvae hatch they begin eating leaves and continue to eat, moulting several times and growing rapidly until they are fully grown. They will then make a cocoon in which to pupate; transforming from a caterpillar to a butterfly emerging in spring. The average lifespan of a butterfly is two to three weeks.