Judy Nevin of San Antonio was concerned about Monarch chrysalises she’d been monitoring in her garden this week. One had crawled under some plant cloth and frozen when the temperatures dipped below 32. Another had relocated to a former basil plant and formed its green, gold-flecked container on a dead limb, perhaps to emerge on a day like those we experienced this weekend when the sun warmed parts of Bexar County to springlike temperatures in the 70s.
“I had two chrysalises until two nights before last,” said Nevin by phone. One froze and she brought the other inside.
Our schizophrenic weather, freezing one day and balmy the next, has provoked frequent questions from readers about what to do with chryalises found in the winter. Should you bring them inside? And why do they form away from their host plant?
Bringing a chrysalis inside for protection from the elements is a judgement call. We already covered the quandary of moving late season caterpillars indoors in this December post. The same logic applies to chrysalises. Will you be around to release the butterfly or do you plan to keep it inside if the weather is ornery? Do you have nectar for it–either artificial or natural? Depending on where you live and the time of year, the newborn butterfly may have few prospects for food or mating.
Again, there’s no “right” answer here.
As for caterpillars forming their chrysalises AWAY from their hostplants, this is common practice. We’ve brought hundreds of caterpillars and chrysalises inside, and yet it still provokes smiles when we find a chrysalis in an unlikely place.