Complete and Incomplete Metamorphosis in Insects

Praying Mantid Eggcase

Praying Mantid egg case

Metamorphosis describes the changes that the majority of insects go through during their life cycle. The two most dominant cycles are Complete and Incomplete.

Complete Metamorphosis is also called Holometabolous Development.

Incomplete Metamorphosis is also called Partial Metamorphosis or Hemimetabolous Development.

What is the difference between complete and incomplete metamorphosis in insects?

The number of life cycle stages insects go through during their transformation from egg to adult differs. Complete metamorphosis has 4 life cycle stages. Incomplete metamorphosis has 3 life cycle stages.

Complete Metamorphosis

The majority of insects go through complete metamorphosis. There are four distinct life cycle stages:

  • egg
  • larva
  • pupa
  • adult

The larva can be worm-like, although you can still see the six legs. The larvae for moths and butterflies are called caterpillars. Maggots are the larval stage of flies. The larvae eat constantly and grow rapidly.

A hard, protective case forms around the larva: this is the pupa stage. The pupa stage for a butterfly is called a chrysallis. The pupa stage for a moth is called a cocoon.

Examples of Complete Metamorphosis

Some insects that go through complete metamorphosis are:

Incomplete Metamorphosis

Incomplete metamorphosis only has three life cycle stages:

  • egg
  • nymph
  • adult

The nymph looks like a smaller version of the adult, but is wingless. Instead of going into a cocoon, the nymph grows into an adult by shedding its outer layer or exoskeleton. Once wings develop, the nymph has become an adult and will no longer shed its outer shell.

Examples of Incomplete Metamorphosis

Examples of insects that go through incomplete metamorphosis are

Where you can find out more

If you need more explanation, leave a comment below or try one of these websites:

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29 thoughts on “Complete and Incomplete Metamorphosis in Insects

    • we’re working on getting some good quality images for those, unfortunately most images we’ve seen are black & white or we’re unable to obtain permission to display them here.




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