Metamorphosis, Nature's Ultimate Transformer

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Incomplete metamorphosis: a change in body form with three stages: egg, nymph, and adult.

Nymph: young stage of insects that undergo a partial metamorphosis; similar to the adult except that wings are not fully developed.

Incomplete Metamorphosis Has Three Stages: Egg, Nymph, and Adult

Grasshopper metamorphosis

In grasshopper metamorphosis, you can see that young grasshoppers (1-5) look very similar to the adults (6) as they grow larger.

Insects that go through three stages of change in their life cycle have an incomplete metamorphosis while complete metamorphosis has four stages.

The first stage of incomplete metamorphosis is the egg. During this time, the insect will hatch into a form called a nymph.

The nymph is basically a small version of the adult insect. This is very similar to how a child looks like his or her parents. Nymphs usually have a thin exoskeleton and no wings. They eat the same food as their parents and live in the same place. As insect nymphs grow larger, their exoskeleton becomes too tight and they must replace it.

Once a nymph outgrows its exoskeleton it will go through a process called molting, in which it leaves the old “skin” or exoskeleton behind. The new “skin” will harden and become the new exoskeleton. This will happen many times until the insect finally becomes the size of an adult.

Insects that have an incomplete metamorphosis life cycle include true bugs, grasshoppers, cockroaches, termites, praying mantises, crickets, and lice.

Grasshopper nymph and adult

These two lubber grasshoppers are examples of a nymph and adult form. Can you tell which one is the nymph and which is the adult? Images by Bob Peterson and Fredlyfish4 via Wikimedia Commons.

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Bibliographic details:

  • Article: Incomplete Metamorphosis
  • Author(s): Page Baluch
  • Publisher: Arizona State University School of Life Sciences Ask A Biologist
  • Site name: ASU - Ask A Biologist
  • Date published: April 29, 2011
  • Date accessed: June 17, 2024
  • Link:

APA Style

Page Baluch. (2011, April 29). Incomplete Metamorphosis. ASU - Ask A Biologist. Retrieved June 17, 2024 from

American Psychological Association. For more info, see

Chicago Manual of Style

Page Baluch. "Incomplete Metamorphosis". ASU - Ask A Biologist. 29 April, 2011.

MLA 2017 Style

Page Baluch. "Incomplete Metamorphosis". ASU - Ask A Biologist. 29 Apr 2011. ASU - Ask A Biologist, Web. 17 Jun 2024.

Modern Language Association, 7th Ed. For more info, see
Ecuador cockroach

Cockroaches go through incomplete metamorphosis, where the young look like miniature versions of the adults.

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