Chrysalis: A time of change

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The Egg: Germ of a new life.

Caterpillar: A time of growth

Chrysalis: A time of change.

View a "shockwave" slide show documenting a caterpillar transformation into a chrysalis :  click here!

Caterpillar to Chrysalis Transformation

It all begins when the larva spins a silk "holdfast", grips it securely ,and hangs head downwards. Several hours later it will be noticed the larval "whips" near the front end have become shriveled. This is a sure sign to pay close attention so as not to miss the actual "chrysalis birthing" process. See it now as a "schockwave animated picture show. Just click on this picture.

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It is amazing how wonderful recent advances in technology enable us to peer ever deeper and also enable one to share experiences of what is observed by others worldwide. Below is a video found in youtube taken of a monarch butterfly caterpillar changing into a chrysalis. Watch the straining and the struggle. Watch the intense labor involved in this ancient arduous process!


The chrysalis is a perfect example of form and function. Many chrysalids of different species of butterflies reflect the habitat in which they are found. If the pupa winters over among dead brown leaves it is likely to look like or mimic a dead leaf. If the insect pupates when foliage is green it may be green or look like any number of natural objects such as bark, lichen or a leaf.

 Look closely and notice the areas on the chrysalis where the anatomy of the butterfly will deveop. Notice how the butterfly form is facing downward. This is how it will emerge. Everything has its plan, beauty, purpose and function.

The pupal stage of the monarch is only about ten to fourteen days. Soon the colors will begin showing through the clear (not green) skin of the chrysalis.

About two weeks have gone by since the caterpillar turned into a chrysalis. This time of inactivity is misleading for, in reality, the inward workings within the pupa have been orchestrating the makings of the destined butterfly to come. Now new colors begin to appear as the chrysalis begins to darken.

Here is  a close look at the chrysalis. The colors of the butterfly become ever more visible as  emergence time approaches. These photos of the chrysalis showing the coloration of the butterfly within were taken at 2.5 hour intervals. 

Some ten to twelve hours later the butterfly patterns are rapidly becoming apparant. When the butterfly colors are bold and clear emergence will follow soon.  In a very real sense the chrysalis is a sort of "egg". the substance of the caterpillar has nurished the innate butterfly cells allowing them to rapidly grow. At this point the "caterpillar is entirely "consumed". (these are digital images taken on August 25th 2007.)

View more indepth "shockwave"  picture presentations showing detail within a complete metamorphosis.  Click on a link below.

Watch as a caterpillar is seen developing within its egg, hatches, and eats the egg shell.

See a caterpillar preparing for pupation. After a silk anchor is completed the larvae crawls forward midway, turns around, finds and securely attaches its hind claspers. Then the insect proceeds to slowly release and hang head downwards.

A caterpillar to chrysalis transformation. The larvae sheds its skin to reveal a wet gyrating chrysalis. The pupae must transfer its hold to its cremaster and drop the old larval skin. The chrysalis gradually assumes its predestined shape and hardens into an imobile waxy pupae.

Chrysalis emergence as a transformed butterfly is indeed one of the wonders of nature. View a butterfly breaking free of the pupae, expanding and drying its wings.

Be sure to click on all picture sets below to see a full size image and begin a slideshow.

Navigation links will appear under each picture. You can advance or go back at your leisure. There is a 10 sec. auto advance

(these are digital images taken on August 25th 2007.)

Click below on the thunbnail photos to start the slideshow.

Here is a sequence of 27 photos showing the emergence of the butterfly from its chrysalis. After emergence the adult insect actively moves about as it seeks the right position so, with gravity assist, the wings will fill out and harden in the correct shape for flight. Also pay special attention where the monarch aligns the two pieces of its tongue together to work as one. .  (these are digital images taken on September 15th 2008.) Click below to start the slideshow.

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Butterfly colors are vibrantly clear. The time of emergence is at hand. The insect begins pushing downwards and outwards. A clear lighter colored area appears at the top of the pupae as the butterfly within works towards release. The pupal skin cracks and the adult pushes the crack ever wider.   Click on a left photo for a full size viewing of a 27 image slide show..

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.Within seconds the adult insect slips free of the spent chrysalis. At this point the abdomen is very large and filled with fluid it must pump into the wings. Even as the butterfly emerges the wings begin expanding. The insect twists side to side to help facilitate transfer of fluid from the abdomen into the wings.  Click on a left photo for a full size viewing.

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.Minutes later the wings have greatly expanded in size. Meanwhile the butterfly has another goal to be accomplished. The two pieces of the tongue must be aligned up and zipped together allowing them to function as one unit. This process can be glimpsed at in the photo to the far left. Notice how the end of the tongue is still paired as two separate strands while the base is fused into one.                        Click on a left photo for a full size viewing.

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.The wings are now fully expanded. As can be seen in the far left photo the wings are very soft and vulnerable. If the butterfly tried to spread them they would just bend downwards or flop over. It is essential for the insect to spend time folding the wings together hanging freely vertically downward to allow proper camber to develop for flight. Within hours the butterfly will be airborne.                          Click on a left photo for a full size viewing.

  plainblue_new.gif  Next, learn facts about the monarch butterfly.  >>>

The Egg: Germ of a new life.

Caterpillar: A time of growth

Chrysalis: A time of change.

This very different caterpillar is the larva of the cecropia moth. This large moth is very different from monarch butterflies. Instead of migrating south, cecropias, and most other species of butterflies and moths, spend the winter in the pupal state. Cecropias have only one brood a year. Just one generation is seen each summer. All will overwinter in a cocoon. This website is expanding to include both Hyalophora cecropia and Antheraea polyphemus saturniid moth life cycles. Click  navigation tabs or simply click on the caterpillar  to the right.
HomeMonarch EggCaterpillarChrysalisButterflyCecropia MothCecropia LarvaeCocoonCecropia AdultA Story of SamPolyphemus MothVideosSmall Wonders