How long do butterflies live?

Like most insects, butterflies have a short lifespan. But there are well over 17,000 species of butterflies worldwide, and they don’t all have the same lifespan.

When talking about how long a butterfly lives, we focus on only the butterfly stage of life here; which is the final of four stages in the butterfly life cycle.

Some species live for less than one week, some have a more generous life of one month or even several months. That is of course, if they live out their entire lifespan without having it cut short for any reason like predation or conflict with the many hazards of the human world.

Some of the most well known and loved butterflies have short lifespans: the painted lady is here and gone within two weeks, while the monarch butterfly can live up to 6 weeks but as short as 2 weeks. Migratory butterfly species like these have short lifespans for a reason – it has worked across their evolutionary history to maintain the breeding capacity and survivability of the species.

The lifestyle and location of butterfly species will play a big role in their life expectancy. Remember: it’s all about survival of the species. Some butterfly species hibernate through winter, so they will naturally have a much longer life.

Some butterfly species buck the trend of very short lifespans. One example is the Murning Cloak of North America which can live up to 11 months.

How many eyes do butterflies have?

Some insects have multiple eyes or eye formations, but butterflies just have two eyes like us humans. But these are very different eyes to the human eye (as you might expect).

Compound eyes are the name of butterfly eyes. Each of the two compound eyes has thousands of lenses. These lenses ensure that butterflies are able to see in multiple directions at once and their field of view is actually larger than humans. These lenses could almost be thought of as separate eyes.

Do butterflies see in color? Given their lifestyle of seeking out flowers, you would expect butterflies to have color vision and they do indeed see in color.

What about those fake eyes on the wings of some butterflies? Of course, these aren’t eyes at all but evolutionary adaptations to help ward off predators like birds.