Home & Garden Garden Watch a Caterpillar Become a Butterfly By Ben Bolton Writer University of Georgia Ben Bolton has covered athletics for several universities. He has since embarked on a career as a digital editor, creating media campaigns for major brands. our editorial process Ben Bolton Updated August 29, 2019 Share Twitter Pinterest Email Garden Insects Planting Guides Indoor Gardening Urban Farms Butterflies are some of the most spectacular and beautiful creatures on our planet. There's nothing quite like seeing the vibrant color of their wings floating in a clear blue sky. And isn't it curious that Mother Nature chose caterpillars to be the starting point? In the National Geographic video above, you can see the full process of metamorphosis, as a caterpillar turns into a butterfly. The process starts when a fully grown caterpillar forms a vessel using nearby twigs and leaves called a chrysalis. This pupa stage can last anywhere from a few weeks to several months depending on the species. A hardened case forms around pupa as a protective layer from predators and weather, while the transformation begins inside. The process inside the cocoon is quite messy, as enzymes break down some of the caterpillar's structures into a chemical soup of sorts. Only essential parts of its body remain intact. One of those essential parts are imaginal discs, which are hidden in the caterpillar's body during its lifespan. Once metamorphosis kicks in, these cells divide and multiply rapidly. The cells eventually overwhelm the caterpillar's immune system and start using the nutrients and materials in the cocoon to form body parts for the butterfly, like eyes, antennae and wings. Once the butterfly assembles itself and is ready to emerge, the chrysalis splits open. The newly formed insect will crawl out, but will not fly due to its wet, soft, wrinkled wings. The butterfly then begins to pump a fluid called hemolymph into its wings while they dry, which helps them grow in size and strength. Once the wings are ready, the butterfly flaps its way into the air in search of flowers to feed on and mating partners so that the circle of life can continue.