Did you know that when butterflies are born, they don’t look anything like adult butterflies at all? They don’t even have wings! The baby butterflies that hatch from eggs are actually caterpillars! They may crawl up trees to eat leaves, but they don’t fly at all.
Many insects, like butterflies, go through big changes while growing into adults. Their bodies take on new shapes and wings may even grow from their backs! During these changes, the insects often lose the ability to move around because their legs are changing and they need all their energy to help them grow. It is pretty dangerous to be an insect just sitting on a tree branch, waiting to grow into an adult. Birds and other insects may come along and try to eat it.
The solution is pretty impressive! A caterpillar will wrap itself in a cocoon, which is a protective casing made from sticky threads of silk that come from the caterpillars own body. The caterpillar will twist and turn until it is completely wrapped in its cocoon, and then it is much safer from animals that might want to eat it. Cocoons can be found on branches, bushes, or hidden in leaves or holes in the ground. Some insects may even spend an entire winter in their cocoon. When they break free of the cocoon, an entirely new animal crawls out. Caterpillars become beautiful butterflies!
Cocoons aren’t just for butterflies though. Moths, leeches, and even earthworms also have cocoons!