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.

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