The effect of temperature on the metamorphosis of the Painted Lady butterflyFeatured science projectScience project video

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1 day to prepare, 9 days for observation
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This experiment was conducted to find out how global warming and temperature will affect the metamorphosis in a butterfly. The experiment was done using the Painted lady butterfly.


The metamorphosis of the Painted lady butterfly will be faster at higher temperatures.


The lifecycle of a butterfly

Butterflies are beautiful and colorful insects that can be found almost anywhere. There are over 15,000 species of butterflies found all over the world. They feed on the nectar from flowers using their hollow straw-like tongue that can recoil.

The life cycle of a butterfly is in 4 stages. The adult female butterfly will lay the eggs on the plants that the caterpillars will like to eat. The eggs may take  from  3 to 5 days to hatch. The hungry caterpillar will start eating the leaves continuously and start to grow very fast. As they continue growing the caterpillars will have to shed and grow new skin at least 3 to 4 times and they can grow up to 5 cm in less than 2 weeks.

Once fully grown, the caterpillar will find a safe spot, form a silk pad and hang from the pad. The skin of the caterpillar will open and a hard shell like surface called the chrysalis is revealed. For the next 7 to 9 days, the caterpillar will transform into a butterfly inside the chrysalis. Once the transformation is complete, the butterfly will struggle and come out of the chrysalis. It will take a few hours before the butterfly can start to fly and  it can live up to 2 weeks.

Scientific Terms

Species, life cycle, chrysalis, Painted Lady Butterfly


The materials required for this science fair project:

-    3 transparent fish tanks

-    60 Painted lady butterfly caterpillars

-    3 leafy plants that can be placed in the fish tank

-    1 air conditioned room

-    1 incandescent lamp

-    3 thermometers


1.    For this experiment, the independent variable is the temperature the caterpillars are exposed to during the chrysalis stage. The dependent variable is the number of days it takes for the transformation from the start of  the chrysalis stage until the butterfly comes out. This is determined by observing and counting the chrysalis in the tank everyday. The constants (control variables) are the number of butterflies, the species of butterflies used, the type of leaves the caterpillars are fed and the size of the fish tank.

2.    The  3 fish tanks are labeled A, B and C. One leafy potted plant is placed in each fish tank. Twenty Painted lady butterfly caterpillars are placed on the plants in each tank.

3.    The 3 tanks that were labeled A, B and C are kept under the following conditions.

a.    Tank A – kept in an air conditioned room where the temperature is maintained at 18° C,

b.    Tank B – kept in room condition with temperature around 24° C ,

c.    Tank C – kept under  an incandescent lamp with average temperature at 30° C

4.    Not all the caterpillars will form into the chrysalis stage on the same day. Observation is made everyday on the start of the chrysalis stage for each individual caterpillar. The number of days the caterpillar takes to transform from the beginning of the chrysalis into a butterfly is observed everyday. The results are recorded in the table below.


The Painted Lady butterflies that were placed under the incandescent lamp at 30° C were the fastest to complete the transformation followed by the butterflies in the tank placed under room conditions.

Tank temperature

Number of days taken for transformation from chrysalis to butterfly

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

Day 5

Day 6

Day 7

Day 8

Day 9

16° C










24° C










30° C










The graph below represents the results of our science project experiment.

Butterfly metamorphosis and temperature science project


The hypothesis that the metamorphosis of the Painted lady butterfly will be faster at higher temperatures is proven to be true.

Metamorphosis is a natural occurrence in insects as an intermediate stage as they transform from an egg and larvae into an adult insect. Similar transformations can also be seen in amphibians as the change from an egg to tadpole and finally to an adult frog or toad.

Also consider

What would happen if the experiment was repeated by placing the butterfly chrysalis inside a copper coil with magnetic fields?

The experiment can also be repeated using mealworm to observe the metamorphosis of beetles.


Life cycles of the painted lady butterfly -

Metamorphosis -