Difference Between Butterfly And Caterpillar (With Table)

We all have seen colorful butterflies flying around the surroundings beautifully. The flying insect has a diurnal activity, whereas the caterpillar is just a little butterfly. Caterpillar is the larvae stage of the butterfly, and the adult is called a butterfly, whereas larvae are called a caterpillar. They are both related to each other technically because they are just the same, belonging to the order Lepidoptera. However, both the butterfly and the caterpillar have a lot of significant differences.

Butterfly vs Caterpillar

The main difference between Butterfly And Caterpillar is that the caterpillar is the larva, and the butterfly is the adult. Apart from that, there are many differences between butterflies and caterpillars. Even after being the same species, both exhibit very different habits in terms of food, body structure, wings, etc. 

The butterfly is the insect that drinks the nectar of the plants, which helps in the pollination of plants. They have six legs and an antenna that help them in their sensory and motor movements. This compound eye creature has colorful wings that make them quite attractive insects of the order Lepidoptera.

Caterpillar has no insect-like characteristics because it is still in growing age. This tiny larva is hairy and spends most of the time eating the leaves, which destroys the plants. Caterpillars have variable sizes from 1 mm to up to 15 mm. Some parts of the caterpillar make it poisonous and non-edible. 

Comparison Table Between Butterfly and Caterpillar

Parameters of Comparison




Butterfly has compound eyes.

Caterpillar has simple eyes. These are called Ocelli which only helps in seeing black and white color,.


Butterfly has six legs.

Caterpillar has thousands of legs.


Wings are present in butterfly.

Wings are absent in caterpillar.


Butterfly has long club shaped antennae.

Caterpillar has simple antennae.


Butterfly consumes nectar from flowers.

Caterpillar eats leaves of the plants because it requires energy for metamorphosis.

What is Butterfly?

The butterfly is an adult insect with attractive colored wings. This creature can fly thousands of miles with these wings. Butterfly belong to the phylum Lepidoptera that has insects that have scales present on their bodies. The butterfly has six legs, wings, antennae that are the characteristics of all or most of the insects.

The club-shaped antennae present in the butterfly helps it to sense the predators and defend itself. Butterfly has four stages of life, the egg is laid, larva comes out, the pupa is formed, and transition into an adult butterfly. Butterflies can easily navigate their ways because it functions on the principle of polarized light. It can turn quickly even in cloudy conditions with this natural compass.

Butterflies play a critical role in the pollination of plants. When they drink nectar from the flowers of one plant, the pollen from that plant sticks to the butterfly’s body, which is transferred to the other plant when visited to take nectar. This nectar is a nutrient-rich source for butterflies and other insects and birds.

The butterfly is sometimes sexually dimorphic where the male is homogametic (ZZ), and the female has heterogametic sex (ZW), unlike humans where the female is XX and the male is XY. They have a diurnal activity where they are attracted to the bright colors of flowers during the daytime.

What is Caterpillar?

Caterpillar is the larval stage of a butterfly and moths with no insect-like characteristics. There are no wings and beak, but it has thousands of legs. Caterpillar is herbivorous, sometimes insectivorous too. It mainly feeds on the plants, chews the leaves, and destroys them. It needs a lot of nutrition to undergo transitions, and it feeds on plants for the same.

Caterpillar is a hairy organism and nonedible due to its poisonous body parts. Depending on the type, Caterpillar’s body can be from 1 mm to 15 mm. It can see only two colors, i.e., black and white, so the ocelli(eye of Caterpillar) function as the simple eyes of this little creature.

The only work of Caterpillar is eating. It keeps on eating and then stabilizes to form a cacoon which turns into a pupa and then an adult. It grows up to 100 times in its growing stage but walks minimally because of many legs, making it complicated. Caterpillar can also be called the baby butterfly without wings.

Fossils of caterpillar were found forty four millions years ago, telling us the time, it is present with us since a long time. Caterpillar is called as agricultural pests because of the destruction they cause to plants.

Main Differences Between Butterfly And Caterpillar

  1. Butterfly is the adult of the same order Lepidoptera, whereas the caterpillar is the larva.
  2. Butterfly has beautiful, attractive wings and can fly, whereas the caterpillar does not have wings and can’t fly.
  3. Butterfly has six legs and compound eyes, whereas the caterpillar has thousands of legs but lacks compound eyes..
  4. Butterfly only feeds on the nectar of flowers, whereas the caterpillar is herbivorous and feeds on the leaves of the plants.
  5. Butterfly has club-shaped antennae to sense predators for defense, whereas the caterpillar has hairs on the body for a defense mechanism.
  6. Butterfly is capable of reproduction and lays eggs from where the Caterpillar comes out, whereas Caterpillar has hairs on the body for a defense mechanism.
  7. Butterfly has no legs on abdomen, whereas the caterpillar has legs on abdomen.


Butterfly and Caterpillar are both the same, but the main difference is that the larval stage is the Caterpillar and the adult stage is the butterfly. The order Lepidoptera is common in both. Caterpillar needs a lot of nutrition for metamorphosis, which is why it keeps feeding on plants to turn into the pupa stage. A butterfly’s life has four stages: Egg, Larva, Pupa, and Adult.

Caterpillar walks minimally due to so many legs that make locomotion difficult, whereas butterfly flies thousands of miles without difficulty. As a result, Caterpillar isn’t capable of reproduction, but the butterfly lays eggs, and from these eggs, Caterpillar comes out.


  1. https://repository.si.edu/bitstream/handle/10088/22975/SMC_143_Snodgrass_1961_6_1-51.pdf
  2. https://zslpublications.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1469-7998.1991.tb04789.x