25 Insects with Complete Metamorphosis (A to Z List with Pictures)

Insects with Complete Metamorphosis

Examples of insects with complete metamorphosis include alderflies, Asian hornets, atlas moths, beetles, and black ants.

Most people are familiar with the life cycle of a butterfly, from egg to larva to pupa to adult. However, there are many other insects that have a complete metamorphosis life cycle.

This means that the entire life cycle, from egg to adult, happens in different forms or stages. In some cases, the transformation is so extreme that it’s hard to believe they are all related. Here are just a few examples of insects with complete metamorphosis and how they do it.

Examples of Insects with Complete Metamorphosis

1. Alderflies

Scientific NameSialidae
Type of AnimalInsect
Rangeslow-moving, detritus-littered waters, such as lakes and ponds

Alderflies are in the same family as dobsonflies and fishflies. They get their name from the fact that they often lay their eggs on alders, which are a type of tree. The eggs hatch into larvae, which look like small worms.

These larvae then burrow into the ground, where they live for two to three years. When they are ready to transform into adults, they burrow back up to the surface and emerge from their pupal cases as winged insects.

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2. Asian Hornet

Scientific NameVespa mandarinia
Type of AnimalInsect
RangeChina, Japan, and several other Asian countries

The Asian hornet is a type of wasp that is native to Asia. It’s considered one of the most invasive species in the world, and it’s capable of causing serious damage to honey bee populations.

The female Asian hornet will lay her eggs inside a tree hollow or other cavities. Once the eggs hatch, the larvae will feed on insects that the adults bring back to the nest. After a few weeks, the larvae will spin a cocoon and pupate. The pupa stage lasts for about two weeks, after which time the adult hornet will emerge.

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3. Atlas Moth

Scientific NameAttacus atlas
Type of AnimalInsect
Rangetropical and subtropical forests of Southeast Asia

The atlas moth is one of the largest moths in the world with a wingspan that can reach up to 12 inches. The larvae stage of this moth is particularly interesting because it looks like a snake.

It is black and has red spots and a long tail. The pupa stage is not much better, as it resembles a dead leaf hanging from a tree. But when the moth emerges in its adult stage, it is a beautiful creature with brown and cream-colored wings.

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4. Beetles

Scientific NameColeoptera
Type of AnimalInsect

A beetle starts its life as an egg. The larva hatches from the egg and looks nothing like the adult. It goes through several molts, or skin shedding until it finally becomes a pupa. The pupa is the resting stage where the beetle’s body undergoes major changes to turn into an adult.

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5. Black Ants

Scientific NameLasius niger
Type of AnimalInsect
Rangein the dead or decaying wood of trees, stumps, logs, and dead branches, though some species nest in the soil

The black ant is a common household pest in many parts of the world. The life cycle of a black ant starts with an egg. The egg hatches into a larva, which looks like a small white worm. The larva pupates, and the pupa looks like a small black ant. Finally, the adult black ant emerges from the pupa.

Related Article: 30 Insects that Are Decomposers

6. Blow Fly

Scientific NameCalliphoridae
Type of AnimalInsect
Rangeoutside gathering in groups around animal carcasses, animal feces, garbage piles, and piles of decaying vegetation

The first stage of the blow fly’s life cycle is spent as an egg. The female will lay her eggs near decomposing animal matter, which the larvae will feed on when they hatch. Once they mature, the larvae turn into pupae.

The pupa is the final stage before adulthood, and during this stage, the fly undergoes a major transformation. The pupa will eventually emerge as an adult fly, ready to start the cycle all over again.

Related Article: 9 Insects that Walk on Water

7. Bullet Ants

Scientific NameParaponera clavata
Type of AnimalInsect
Rangein the Rainforest spanning from Nicaragua to Paraguay

The bullet ant is one of the largest species of ant and can be found in rainforests in Central and South America. They build nests high up in trees, and can often be seen hanging upside down from leaves.

The life cycle of a bullet ant starts with an egg. The egg hatches into a larva, which is then fed by the adult ants. After a few weeks, the larva pupates, and an adult ant emerges.

8. Bumble Bee

Scientific NameBombus
Type of AnimalInsect
Rangeprimarily in higher altitudes or latitudes in the Northern Hemisphere, although they are also found in South America

The bumble bee’s life cycle starts with an egg. The egg hatches into a larva, which looks like a small, white grub. The larva eats and grows for a few weeks until it’s time to pupate. To do this, the larva spins a cocoon around itself and goes into a deep sleep. Once it wakes up, it has transformed into a fully grown bumble bee.

9. Carpenter Bee

Scientific NameXylocopa
Type of AnimalInsect
Rangeacross the southern United States from Arizona to Florida and in the eastern United States, north to New York

The carpenter bee starts out as a small, black egg. When it hatches, the larva is white and has no eyes. It spins a cocoon around itself and pupates. After about two weeks, the adult bee emerges. It is black with yellow stripes and has large eyes.

10. Carpet Moth

Scientific NameTrichophaga tapetzella
Type of AnimalInsect
Rangein carpeted closets, behind bedroom furniture, under sofas, behind TV units, and many other similar places

The carpet moth starts its life as an egg. Once it hatches, the larva stage begins. The larva stage is when the caterpillar-like creature grows and eats. For the carpet moth, this stage can last anywhere from several weeks to several months.

Once it’s ready, the larva will spin a cocoon around itself and enter the pupa stage. The pupa is the resting stage, where the caterpillar-like creature changes into a moth. Once the transformation is complete, the adult moth will emerge from the cocoon.

11. Fleas

Scientific NameSiphonaptera
Type of AnimalInsect

Fleas are wingless insects that are known for their bloodsucking habits. The adults live on their host, which can be a mammal or bird, and feed on its blood. The female flea can lay up to 50 eggs per day. These eggs fall off the host and into the environment, where they hatch into larvae.

12. Fruit Fly

Scientific NameDrosophila melanogaster
Type of AnimalInsect

The fruit fly starts its life as an egg. When the egg hatches, the larva that emerges looks nothing like the adult fly. In fact, it doesn’t even have wings. The larva grows and molts (sheds its skin) several times before pupating. Once it has pupated, the adult fly eventually emerges.

13. Honey Bee

Scientific NameApis
Type of AnimalInsect

The honey bee life cycle starts with the queen laying an egg in a wax cell. The egg hatches into a larva, which is fed by the workers. After about two weeks, the larva spins a cocoon and pupates. After another two weeks, it emerges as an adult.

14. Horse-Fly

Scientific NameTabanidae
Type of AnimalInsect
Rangesuburban and rural areas near bodies of water

The horse-fly starts its life as an egg, which hatches into a larva. The larva then pupates into an adult fly.

The complete metamorphosis of the horse-fly takes about two weeks.

15. Hover Flies

Scientific NameSyrphidae
Type of AnimalInsect
Rangeall continents except Antarctica

Hover flies, also known as syrphid flies, are one of the most common types of flower-visiting insects. The adults are easy to spot because of their striped abdomens and their habit of hovering in midair like a helicopter.

The larvae are small and worm-like, and they are often found on plants near the water. They feed on aphids and other small insects. The pupae are dark and spindle-shaped, and they can be found in a variety of locations, depending on the species.

16. Lacewings

Scientific NameNeuroptera
Type of AnimalInsect
Rangein openings around grassy areas, weedy roadsides, shrubs, and other vegetation

The egg stage of a lacewing’s life cycle is spent in a tiny egg sac, which is often attached to a plant. The larva that hatches from the egg looks nothing like the adult lacewing. In fact, it is a voracious predator, with large jaws and sharp teeth. It spends its time hunting down other insects, which it then devours.

As the lacewing larva grows, it molts or sheds its skin. At each molt, it becomes more like the adult lacewing, until finally, it pupates. The pupa is a resting stage, during which the larva transforms into an adult.

17. Luna Moth

Scientific NameActias luna
Type of AnimalInsect
Rangedeciduous forests from Saskatchewan to Texas, and from Nova Scotia to Florida

The luna moth goes through four stages in its life cycle: egg, larva, pupa, and adult. The larva stage is when the caterpillar first hatches from the egg. It will spend its time eating leaves until it’s big enough to make a cocoon.

Once inside the cocoon, the caterpillar will transform into a pupa. The pupa stage is when the moth’s body begins to change and form its wings. After a few weeks, the pupa will emerge from the cocoon as an adult moth.

18. Mayflies

Scientific NameEphemeroptera
Type of AnimalInsect
Rangethroughout North America and worldwide

These insects go through four stages in their life cycle- egg, nymph, subimago, and imago. Nymphs hatch from the eggs and look like miniature adults. They live in water and molt several times before becoming winged mayflies. These insects then mate and die soon after.

19. Monarch Butterfly

Scientific NameDanaus plexippus
Type of AnimalInsect
Rangeacross North America wherever suitable feeding, breeding, and overwintering habitat exists

The monarch butterfly is one of the most familiar examples of an insect with complete metamorphosis. The monarch goes through four distinct stages in its lifetime: egg, larva, pupa, and adult.

The Monarch butterfly starts its life as an egg, laid on a milkweed leaf by the female butterfly. After about three to five days, the egg hatches into a larva or caterpillar.

The larva starts to eat the milkweed leaves and grows very quickly. After two weeks or so, the larva is fully grown and ready to pupate.

20. Mosquito

Scientific NameCulicidae
Type of AnimalInsect

The mosquito starts its life cycle as an egg. Once the egg hatches, the larva that emerges looks nothing like its future self. It is long and thin with a large head and no wings.

The larva lives in water and feeds on microscopic plants and animals. When it is ready to transform into a pupa, it climbs out of the water and attaches itself to a plant or another object.

21. Painted Lady Butterfly

Scientific NameVanessa cardui
Type of AnimalInsect
Rangethroughout Europe, Asia, Africa, North America, and Central America

The Painted Lady Butterfly goes through all four stages of metamorphosis. The eggs are laid on the underside of a leaf and hatch into larvae (caterpillars).

The caterpillars grow and shed their skin several times as they eat voraciously. Eventually, they spin a cocoon and pupate inside. After about two weeks, they emerge as adults.

22. Red Admiral Butterfly

Scientific NameVanessa atalanta
Type of AnimalInsect
Rangetemperate regions of North Africa, North and Central America, Europe, Asia, and island regions of Hawaii, and the Caribbean

The red admiral butterfly is a beautiful black and red butterfly that you might see fluttering around your garden. The adult butterfly lays its eggs on nettles, and when they hatch, the larva (caterpillar) eats the nettle leaves

23. Silk Moth

Scientific NameBombyx mori
Type of AnimalInsect
Rangethroughout the world

The silk moth goes through four stages in its life cycle: egg, larva, pupa, and adult. The larva stage is when the moth spins its cocoon. The pupa stage is when the moth inside the cocoon transforms into an adult.

24. Wasps

Scientific NameHymenoptera
Type of AnimalInsect

The life cycle of a wasp begins when the female lays her eggs inside a host, such as another insect or animal. The eggs hatch and the larvae feed on the host, slowly growing and molting as they do. Once they reach a certain size, the larvae spin cocoons and enter the pupal stage.

During this stage, the wasp undergoes a complete transformation, emerging as an adult wasp with wings. The new wasp will then mate and start the cycle all over again.

25. Wheat fly

Scientific NameContarinia tritici
Type of AnimalInsect
Rangeclinging to food plants, or may be found miles away from any known food plant, having been carried on the wind

The wheat fly spends its larval stage inside the kernels of wheat. When it’s time to pupate, the larva bores its way out of the wheat and spins a cocoon around itself. The adult fly emerges from the cocoon a few days later.


Insects with complete metamorphosis go through a four-stage life cycle: egg, larva, pupa, and adult. The larval stage is the most important for feeding and growing; the pupal stage is when the insect changes into its adult form, and the adult stage is when the insect reproduces.

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