Facts About Caterpillars: Lesson for Kids

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  • 0:04 What are Caterpillars?
  • 0:55 The Caterpillar's Diet…
  • 1:56 Caterpillar Facts
  • 2:40 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Mary Grace Miller

Mary Grace has taught first grade for 8 years and has a Bachelor's degree in Elementary Education and is licensed in ESL.

Expert Contributor
Amanda Robb

Amanda holds a Masters in Science from Tufts Medical School in Cellular and Molecular Physiology. She has taught high school Biology and Physics for 8 years.

You may have seen caterpillars in your yard. A caterpillar is the very beginning of a moth or a butterfly's life cycle. Caterpillars are very hungry creatures and eat lots of food. Keep reading to find out more about caterpillars, including how they eat and how they turn into a moth or a butterfly.

What Are Caterpillars?

There are about 180,000 different types of caterpillars. Caterpillars are a kind of animal called an insect. Insects have three body parts and two antennae on their heads. The three body parts are called the head, the thorax, and the abdomen. The head is just like a head on any other animal. It's where caterpillars' eyes and antennae are. The thorax is the middle part of the body between the head and the abdomen. The abdomen is the tail end of the body with the belly and digestive system. Caterpillars can be lots of different colors and are usually the same color as their habitat, or home. They try to blend in so they do not get eaten. They especially have to watch out for wasps and birds, two kinds of animals that really like to eat caterpillars.

The Caterpillar's Diet & Growth

Most caterpillars are herbivores. This means that they only eat plants, including the leaves and the fruit. A few caterpillars do eat animals like insect eggs. Caterpillars eat a lot of food really quickly. If you've ever read the book, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, you know how much they eat! They need this energy to turn into moths or butterflies.

The life cycle of a caterpillar has four parts: egg, larva (the caterpillar stage), pupa (the chrysalis stage), and adult (the butterfly or moth stage). As caterpillars grow, they shed their skin, or molt. They can molt as many as four or five times.

When caterpillars are two to four weeks old, they begin making a chrysalis, or cocoon. They hang from a stick or tree while they are in their chrysalis, and when they come out, they are butterflies or moths, depending on the kind of caterpillar. Butterflies and moths can live for as little as a week or as long as a year.

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Additional Activities

Model Caterpillar

In this activity, students will expand their knowledge of caterpillars and use their kinesthetic skills to create a model of one type of caterpillar. Instead of instructing students on how to create the caterpillar directly, allow them to research one specific caterpillar online, and then offer them a range of craft supplies to make a model. Some supplies you might include are cardboard, pom poms, hot glue, craft glue, tape, pipe cleaners, clay, paint, newspaper, glitter, colored paper, or felt. The more choices you include as supplies, the more intricate and creative the product can be.


For example, students might choose a monarch caterpillar, as many are familiar with their butterfly form. They could choose to use newspaper to form a tube and cover it with yellow, white and black pipe cleaners to make stripes. Additional pipe cleaners or string can add details like arms, legs and antennae.


Learning about caterpillars in the lesson was pretty cool, however, it's time to dive even deeper with out caterpillar knowledge. In this activity you will research a specific type of caterpillar you like and create a three dimensional model of it. You can also make a background for your caterpillar with models of the types of plants it likes to live on. Follow the checklist below to make sure you have all the correct details in your caterpillar model:

Criteria for Success

  • Students research one type of caterpillar
  • Students create a model of the caterpillar that is scientifically accurate
  • As a challenge, create a realistic environment for your caterpillar model to live in

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