How long do butterflies live?
Different butterfly species have different potential life spans for the adult stage.
By marking butterflies then recapturing or sighting them later, scientists gain information on how long butterflies can live. An average butterfly species has an adult life span of two weeks or less. For example one butterfly studied in Costa Rica had a life expectancy of about two days, and live ten days at the most.
No adult butterfly can live more than a year. The Mourning Cloak (Nymphalis antiopa) adult and some related tortoiseshells and anglewings that hatch in early summer may live almost a year. The Mourning Cloak over winters as an adult and then waits to court, mate and lay eggs the following spring or early summer.
Monarchs (Danaus plexippus) and Swallowtails may live about a month in the summer, but the Monarchs that migrate to Mexico or to the California coast may live up to six months.
Some long-lived tropical butterflies live up to six months as adults. The long-life champion is a tiny yucca moth that feeds on Banana Yucca (Yucca baccata). Dr. Jerry Powell of the University of California at Berkeley has found this moth's caterpillar may be able to wait up until 30 years to form a pupa and emerge as an adult.