how long do butterflies live
A painted lady butterfly

How Long Do Butterflies Live?

3 mins read

Butterflies are some of the most brightly colored insects living today. They belong to the order Lepidoptera. Butterflies are polymorphic species in that they camouflage themselves to deceive potential predators. They are too weak to offer any resistance to a predator. This indeed threatens the overall lifespan of a butterfly. Besides, many parasites including wasps eat butterflies in the wild habitat. Let us see how long do butterflies live in captivity as well as in the wild habitat.

How Long Do Butterflies Live For?

While most butterflies live as long as 7 to 10 days others have a lifespan of about 150 – 180 days, still others can survive for up to 365 days. A 365-day is likely to be the maximum lifespan of a butterfly. Many species however do not live that many years. The lifespan of a butterfly varies with species but sometimes it varies even within the same species. If an adult has a longer lifespan—its future generations may have possibly lesser lifespans and vice versa.

READ: What Do Butterflies Eat?

Blue butterflies and the barred yellow are some of the shortest-lived butterflies. Similarly female zebras and monarchs have a lifespan of months. The northern species such as Polygonia and Nymphalis milberti are known to live 6 months. The mourning cloak butterfly has a lifespan of 10 – 11 months.

how long do butterflies live in captivity
European Peacock

How Long Do Peacock Butterflies Live?

The European peacock or the peacock butterfly lives in the temperate habitats of Asia and Europe. Many species are polygynous in nature that is to say their lifespans determine their reproductive success. Quite simply, the longer is the lifespan the more the male can reproduce. The greater number of reproduction also defines the fitness of an individual. It indeed contributes positively to a longer lifespan. On the other hand the peacock butterfly has a monandrous mating system. They have shorter lifespans as compared to other species. Peacock butterflies need not to live longer to reproduce more. There seems to be no nexus between the reproductive success and the lifespans of individuals. It clearly suggests that the female peacock butterfly lives many days in comparison to the male species.

Similarly the green-veined white butterfly is a polyandrous species. Their lifespans depend on their reproductive success in a lifetime. The females who reproduce numerous times are likely to live longer than those who do not.

How Long Do Monarch Butterflies Live For?

Like most other butterflies the monarch butterfly also has a shorter lifespan. It is known to live for only few days sometimes a week. The reason behind is that Ophryocystis elektroscirrha is a major parasite that injects subcutaneous tissues into the monarch butterfly during its pupal stage. The spores are spread all over within the monarch butterfly abdomen.

As it turns out monarchs are unable to take a proper flight in the initial stages of her life. If they can’t fly they can’t migrate. If they can’t migrate they can’t live except for few days. Monarchs are highly migratory species. In the United States, the eastern population of a monarch butterfly migrates south as well as north each year. An individual must be fit enough to fly hundreds of miles in migration. Nonetheless, even if monarchs are not consumed by the parasites they might have a lifespan of 20 – 30 days.

How Do Most Butterflies Die?

While most butterflies die of predation at an early stage of their lifecycle some have originally shorter lifespans. The number of times a male or a female undergoes a reproduction also contributes to the longer or shorter lifespans (as the case may be) of a butterfly. In some species the lifespan depends on the reproductive success which means that the individual must reproduce more in order to live a longer life.

how long do butterflies live
A painted lady butterfly

How Long Do Painted Lady Butterflies Live?

The estimated lifespan of a painted lady butterfly is about 14 – 18 days. Some of them can live up to 28 days. The painted lady butterfly is thought to undergo complete metamorphosis.

What is the Longest Life Span of a Butterfly?

In a series of studies researchers estimate that the longest lifespan of a butterfly is one year. Although very few species can live that many years in the wild habitat. The mourning cloak Nymphalis antiopa is probably one of the few species that have the longest lifespan estimating 11 – 12 months. The butterfly breeds in Britain, North America, and Eurasia. It is also the state insect of the Montana State.

How Long Do Butterflies Live UK?

The Lulworth skipper (Thymelicus acteon) is a butterfly which belongs to the family Hesperiidae. The skipper is native to Central Europe but it is also found in North Africa and Asia Minor. Lulworth skippers are some of the smallest butterflies in the United Kingdom. They will have shorter lifespans too. Skippers live only 5 to 10 days. Although some subspecies live little longer they usually live no more than a couple of weeks. This is probably the lifespan of non-hibernating butterflies. Lulworth skippers are most likely to fly in bright sunny day. They are thought to form large colonies comprising as many as 100,000 individuals.

The small blue (Cupido minimus) belongs to the family Lycaenidae. Unlike its name, the butterfly is not actually blue. The small blue butterfly is probably the smallest butterfly in the United Kingdom. It lives in large colonies. Small blue butterflies have a lifespan of 90 days only. They likely become active during daylight hours.


Lowe, Tristan; Garwood, Russell P.; Simonsen, Thomas; Bradley, Robert S.; Withers, Philip J. (2013). “Metamorphosis revealed: three dimensional imaging inside a living chrysalis“. Metamorphosis revealed: three dimensional imaging inside a living chrysalis. 10 (84). 20130304. doi:10.1098/rsif.2013.0304. Retrieved June 11, 2015.

Paul, A. Opler: A Field Guide to Western Butterflies, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1999.

I am a contributing author and co-founder of Every now and then i find myself hooked to my laptop researching and trying to discover new species of animals.

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