Incomplete metamorphosis — what is that??

The majestic monarch goes through four stages in its life cycle --- egg, caterpillar (larva), chrysalis (pupa) and adult butterfly. Insects that go through four stages have what is called complete metamorphosis.

(Read about the monarch's life cycle here)

However, not all insects go through all four stages in their life cycle; some only go through three, called incomplete metamorphosis. Let's take a look at three insects that transform "incompletely."


A male and female dragonfly mate while flying, and then the female will lay eggs on a plant in the water or just into the water itself.

nymph shell

The discarded exoskeleton of a dragonfly nymph

When a dragonfly hatches, it is called a nymph. They live in the water while they grow and develop. Dragonflies can stay in this stage up to four years. If the nymph cycle is completed in wintertime, it will stay in the water until spring when it is warm enough to come out. When a nymph dragonfly crawls from the water, it will shed its skin and become an adult.


Adult dragonflies live about two months.


Cricket eggs are usually laid in the soil. Field cricket eggs hatch in the spring, usually in May.

A newly hatched cricket is called a nymph, and it will burrow to the surface of the soil it was laid in. The cricket will molt eight-10 times over the next two-three months.

African field crickets

The cricket will grow wings as it transforms into an adult. Field crickets are black or dark brown and grow to about 1 inch in length.


After mating, female cicadas slice into twigs 1/4- to 1//2-inch in diameter and deposit their eggs. Females can lay up to 400 eggs in 40-50 sites, and the eggs hatch after six-10 weeks.

Following hatching, the nymphs fall to the ground and burrow in the soil to feed. In periodical cicadas, the nymph stage can last up to 17 years before they emerge from the ground.

When the nymph is full-grown and the temperature is warm, it tunnels to the surface and molts one more time before becoming a winged adult.

cicada with wings spread

Check out more about our favorite insects, butterflies and bees, in our new Pollinator Paradise addition!

Reasons why insects are beneficial

Insects are beneficial. For some reason, most people grow up thinking “Ew” whenever they think “Insect.” However, the vast majority of insects are actually beneficial to humans and the environment. Even those that we think of as annoying, such as mosquitoes, can actually be beneficial in some way. Mosquitoes are actually pollinators. A type of Read More »

Read More

Some insects use a proboscis to drink

In the Build a Pollinator exhibit inside Pollinator Paradise at the Dickinson County Nature Center, one item that you get to put on your pollinator is a proboscis. Many insects have a proboscis, which is a type of mouthpart that is basically a tube to help the insect suck up nectar. You might have seen Read More »

Read More

Four types of wetlands

Bog, marsh, swamp, fen. Often these words are used interchangeably, but in reality, each is its own type of wetland, which is a word used to refer to water-saturated landscapes. (Watch: What is a wetland?) A marsh is a wetland that is continually full of water. If you have been to the Florida Everglades, then Read More »

Read More

What is a wetland?

As Iowa’s landscape changed, so did its wildlife. Some animals were even extirpated (read about that here), but professionals have worked hard to restore some of Iowa’s native areas to increase wildlife habitat, improve water quality and help our pollinators. “Wetlands are being restored in certain areas,” said Iowa Department of Natural Resources fisheries biologist Read More »

Read More

8 Insects You Should Love


Read More

The majestic monarch’s magnificent life cycle

A few more weeks and the monarch butterflies that are overwintering in Mexico will start making their way north. Once coming out of hibernation, a female monarch will find a male with which to reproduce. Around the Texas/Mexico border, the female monarch will find milkweed plants on which to lay her eggs. She can lay Read More »

Read More


  1. Adam Muiz on May 22, 2019 at 11:27 pm

    Thanks, now i know that dragonfly have incomplete metamorphosis
    can you add description about cricket insect

    • kiley on May 29, 2019 at 8:11 am

      Crickets also go through incomplete metamorphosis.