Butterflies are perhaps most famous for the process by which a plump little caterpillar transforms into a winged work of art. But they’re not unique in going through this drastic life change, called complete metamorphosis, or holometabolism.
A whopping 75 percent of known insects—among them bees, beetles, flies, and moths—develop in four stages: egg, larva, pupa, and adult. Most striking about complete metamorphosis is how different the larva looks and behaves from the adult. (Watch a time-lapse video of a caterpillar becoming a butterfly.)
Other species, such as grasshoppers and dragonflies, experience incomplete, or simple, metamorphosis, which involves three life stages—egg, larva or nymph, and adult or imago. The nymphs look like tiny adults, eating and shedding their