The life cycle of the monarch butterfly is extraordinary. And this time-lapse video reveals its transformation from caterpillar to orange-winged butterfly in all its delicate glory.

Native to North America, the monarch butterfly begins its life as a striped green caterpillar. As the classic book told us when we were kids, the job of the caterpillar is to eat and eat. After strolling, patrolling and eating all the leaves, the insect is ready for its next phase of life.

As you see in the video, the caterpillar enters the pupa or chrysalis stage. The pupa is suspended from a tree by a cocoon of silk. Inside, the monarch butterfly starts to form and emerges from the pupa after about 10 days in February or March.

The monarch butterfly migration. (Photo: Luna sin estrellas/Public Domain)

The hatched monarch does have a regal air to it. But it also has one great obstacle to cross: the United States. Every year, to avoid the harsh winters, the eastern seaboard butterflies travel to Mexican mountain ranges and hibernate from from October to March. The western seaboard butterflies hibernate in California.

The monarch butterfly is the only known butterfly in the world to make a two-way migration, according to the United States Department of Agriculture. Their amazing feat makes them heroes among butterflies. One butterfly traveled 265 miles in one day.

Did that chubby little caterpillar know what it was in for?

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