Insect Life Cycle

Definition - What does Insect Life Cycle mean?

All insects start their life cycle as eggs after which there are two different life cycles that can take place dependent on the insect species. The main difference between the two life cycles is the development of a pupa or complete metamorphosis. One life cycle is called Hemimetabolous and only has three stages, the other type of life cycle is Holometabolous and has four stages. Most insect life cycles have four distinctive stages which can be observed just by looking at the physical condition of the insect.

WineFrog explains Insect Life Cycle

Hemimetabolous life cycles have three stages – egg, nymph then adult – which form the adult insect out of an incomplete metamorphosis. The nymph hatches out of the egg and feeds on plants or roots underground for an extended period of time. As the nymph grows, it sheds its skin, and in the final growth stage, the skin sheds to reveal wings and a fully formed adult.

Holomeaboleous life cycles have four stages – egg, larvae, pupa then adult – forming the adult insect out of complete metamorphosis. The egg hatches into a larva, which resemble fat, short worms with tiny legs and sheds its skin during new growth. Once the larvae are large enough, they wrap themselves in a hardened shell or cocoon/chrysalis. During this pupa stage the insect is completely contained and does not eat any food. The pupa moves slightly as it grows and once it forms a new shape it breaks out of the shell as a fully formed adult insect.

The most common types of hemimetabolous insects are cicadas, cockroaches, grasshoppers or locusts and the most common types of holomeabolous insects are butterflies, true flies, or beetles.

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