One of the most frequently asked questions we get this time of year, especially in a rebound season like 2015, is how to move a Monarch chrysalis.
Janine Robin wrote via email last week that she found six Monarch chrysalises in her backyard in Folsom, Louisiana. “Most are in a safe spot, but two are on a large clay pot. They are secure, but in the afternoon sun for about three hours. Should they be moved?”
Good question. That’s a judgement call. Caterpillars are pretty intelligent about locating their chrysalises in safe places. But like all of us, sometimes they misjudge.
For example, the Queen chrysalis pictured below formed on the edge of my kitchen door.
I didn’t even notice until today (and I looked for her!) when I found a smashed newborn Queen caught in the door. Sadly, she perished.
So if the chrysalis is in a dangerous or inopportune spot–or, if you just want to witness the magical moment of eclosure, when it hatches–then yes. Move it.
The tricky part is often getting the chrysalis OFF of the surface to which it is attached without damaging the chrysalis itself.
You may have noticed that before caterpillars make their chrysalis, they are very still and quiet for about a day. I like to think that they are deep in thought during this transformative stage. It must take a lot of concentration and mindfulness to morph caterpillar legs into butterfly wings.
But what’s actually happening is they are spinning a vast silk web that you often don’t notice. If you rub your finger on the surface around the stiff, black cremaster, which serves as a hook to hold the chrysalis in place, you’ll feel a thin, soft layer of silk. That’s what you need to gather up to remove the chrysalis safely. See the slide show below to learn how.
How do you know if the chrysalis is in a dangerous spot?
Consider that the newly hatched butterfly will spend about two hours hanging from its empty chrysalis shell while it’s wet, crumpled wings drop and form properly. It’s advantageous for the butterfly in this delicate state to have something to climb on or cling to–a stick, netting, paper towel, leaves.
Winds blow. Animals or people walk by and brush up on the butterflies–possibly knocking them off. As Janine Robin wrote today, “Of the two chrysalises on the large clay pot, the lower one either fell off or was brushed off by an armadillo, possum or raccoon….I think it’s damaged.” Robin said she was able to reattach the chrysalis with a spot of glue.
Also, if after hatching the butterflies fall and can’t climb back up (which seemingly could happen in the above pot and appears to be what happened with my Queen), their wings will dry crumpled and they will die. Having an easy-to-grab surface or twig/branch/leaf would definitely help hoist heavy, damp wings in the event of a fall.
For more on this subject, see our previous post: Is moving a Monarch chrysalis OK? Yes, and here’s how to do it.
Meanwhile, check out the slide show above to master the tricky task of getting a chrysalis off the surface to which it is attached. Good luck, and let us know how it goes.
- How to Raise Monarch Butterflies at Home, Part I
- Part II: More Tips on Raising Monarch Caterpillars and Butterflies at Home
- How to Raise Eastern Swallowtails at Home
- 2015 a banner year? Monarch butterflies heading our way
- Tropical Milkweed: To Plant it or Not is No Simple Question
- Oh Those Crazy Chrysalises: Caterpillars in Surprising Places
- Butterfly FAQ: Is it OK to Move a Chrysalis? Yes, and here’s how to do it
- Should You Bring in a Late Season Caterpillar into Your Home?
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Good article. We have protected oner 300 Monarchs to eclosure. You always find chrysalides in “the wrong” places. We use hobby pins to gather and wrap the silk at the cremaster and pin it to a pool noodle. We also have been successful for fallen chrysalides to super glue using a small amount (gel) to the cremaster to a ball of cotton then insert pin through cotton ball and pin to noodle. Super glue does not appear to have an adverse impact on eclosure.
I have a caterpillar that became a chrysalis two days ago. Temperatures here are in the 50’s at night, high 70’s for the highs. I have a couple of questions.
First, will this baby have time to eclose and fly to Mexico, or is she too late in the season? The peak of the migration has already happened here (Ohio). I am still seeing one butterfly per day.
Second, I am driving to Charleston, WV tomorrow. Would it be advantageous to my baby for her to eclose a few hundred miles south of here, where it is still warmer?
Moving her should be easy… she is hanging on the plastic frame of a ten gallon fish tank, and since the frame is black, I can readily see the webbing. I thought I might glue the webbing onto a safe surface in Charleston, perhaps.
Your call to move her relocate her or not. There’s no right answer. Nature can be cruel, but she could also catch a sunny,windy day and join her migrating brethren. Good luck!
I am still seeing one monarch a day. Until that stops, I will not move her. The chrysalis is still green. But we are looking at a whole week of temps below 70 degrees F. Two nights, the lows will be in the high forties.
I am bringing the chrysalis indoors at night, hoping warmer nights will mean faster metabolism and development. We’ll see…
I had 5 Monarch cats. 4 became butterflies, but the last one never hatched out. It has been 2 weeks and it is clear with black inside. Should I keep waiting or give up on it?
if it’s black inside, it’s dead. 4 out of 5 hatched, pretty good.
Here in Tulsa, OK, we are having a late autumn, so I have two new chrisalis iinside. A freeze is predicted this next week. Can they possibly make it far enough south to survive? The cats appeared on the tropical sp. plants last week, so late ?? I brought them inside in a “brood bucket” to fiinish gorging and spin their chyslilis. I going to the Texas hill country next week. I will give them a ride that far????
Hi Monika – I moved my chrysalides to a (hopefully) safer place on an Azalea tree, but they are hanging like xmas ornaments in the wind. Is this ok? Or should I tie them closer to the branches like hanging fruit? Thank you.
Not sure. Would have to see them.
Here is a picture.
If someone blows on a chrysalis as the butterfly is emerging, does it damage the butterfly’s wings?
No, but don’t blow hard – if it just simulates a gentle breeze, ok.
It’s a boy! I woke to find my monarch butterfly hatched but on his side at the bottom of the pop up net house. He was still pretty wet and dripping a few drops of the excess abdominal fluid on my fingers. I put my finger under his belly forcing him to hang from my finger. Once I seen he was able to hang, I placed him on a branch I have in the pop up. He is hanging but no movement from his wings. My first birth. Isn’t he supposed to be moving his wings to get the blood flowing? I don’t know how long he was laying at the bottom. I’m guessing about 20 – 30 minutes since he was still pretty wet and dripping the reddish brown fluid.
The Monarch butterfly has emerged however hanging on to the chrysalis red fluid dripped. It is attached to the outside wall of my house in my yard. I am afraid a lizard will get it should I move it? If so how?
they do shed a few drops of excess fluid that can be red sometimes. don’t worry –
[…] How to move a Monarch chrysalis: […]
My monarchs are at risk of placing their chrysalises near plumbed-in sprinklers. Should I try move them? What happens when it rains? Can they get wet and survive?
Thank you for your very helpful advice about moving a chrysalis. I did it with dental floss and it worked great!
Hello- one of my caterpillars has attached itself to the middle of the zipper on its mesh cage-barring me from opening it and feeding the other caterpillars/ cleaning up. Is it ok to move the cage at all or VERY carefully open the zipper? Can I move the caterpillar while still in his J shape?
You can move the chrysalis if you must. Follow the same instructions in the post to detach the silk, and then just cut the thin strand saddles. You can use glue to adhere him to a stick or more advantageous surface. Wouldn’t mess with the cat in the j-shape. I’ve even used tape on the bottom. Good luck.
Odd question, but can the chrysalis move on it’s own? I put one in a jar with a cheese cloth top. It was on a stick and the next day it was on the cheese cloth and then this morning is had moved to another location on the cheese cloth.
I have about 20 monarch chrysalis’ formed on the ceiling of the cage I keep them in. I wanted to bring them on a 2 hour car ride down state to see if they will emerge while I’m with my nieces over the weekend. Is transporting them okay to do?
Yes. Just put cage in car. Good luck!
My monarch has been out of his chrysalis since 9 or earlier but was hanging in the caterpillar cage but had a yucca plant in it. Our butterfly’s wings are crinkled and was soaked so he hung them on our screen inside the lanai! She is still trying to flutter her wings and they do look like she had all of them but can’t seem to spread them all yet! She still may be wet and I put her back in the cage and she is still hanging. I tried to give her a slice of orange and Also put her on a flower but it may have looked like she could’ve drank the nectar and I’m not sure. I was holding her and thought best to let her hang once again. Is there a possibility that her wings will straighten since they still may be wet! I’m waiting for the sun and will try to let her enjoy it and I’m worried about my other 3 chrysalis that’s in the one cage! Will the sun hurt the chrysalis if they are in the sun a little bit? I’m trying to save one life and don’t want to destroy 3! I am just so upset because I’ve lost 1 so far and saved 3 and 18 more to go! I’m not sure what to do with the others once they come out? Do I just let them fly on to the cage screen or my lanai screen? And what can I do for my one in the butterfly cage ? Is there any chance to help her spread her wings since they all seem to b there??? Help Me Please! This is my first butterfly attempt and I’m not too good with losing any of them! I just don’t understand how I can lose any when they r inside! I thought I was being so careful ! They r so beautiful and the caterpillars work so hard that it makes me cry😢
Nature can be cruel. Impossible to say what the problem is. You can’t really help them spread their wings. After they eclose, when they are ready to fly, just take them outside and they’ll fly off. If they’re malformed and seem doomed, I suggest putting them in the freezer and disposing of them properly. You may have OE or another disease and don’t want to spread it to healthy stock. Good luck.
I have caterpillar problems too. I have a screened in porch. I have two milkweed plants but one had a caterpillar on it. Then the next day, it was gone! I just found a chrysalis ton the screen door. I am scared to touch or transport it to the cage or plant. I was wondering if someone could help me.
Thank you very much.
We live on an island off mid-coast Maine. A Monarch caterpillar attached itself to the underside of our windowsill a day or two ago. Yesterday morning it still looked like a caterpillar. Last night we had a torrential rainstorm which must have knocked it off the windowsill. This morning I see the newly-formed chrysalis lying on the deck in a puddle of water. Will it still be viable? Is it still possible to rescue it?
A monarch hatched from the crysalis and did fine, it’s warlike a little bit. But won’t fly. It’s been 6 hours and still no flight. Is there something wrong? The wings look perfect?
I raised and released 34 Black Swallowtail butterflies this summer. A few of them had to be moved and I found out that the best way is to get Contact Cement (found at automotive parts stores) to attach them to a piece of wood. This cement is easy to work with and can even be made into a hanging string if you are patient and careful. Almost all the butterflies that I hung like this emerged fine.
Now my question is this:
I have a few Monarchs this year for the first time (yay!) and one of them has gone curled up on the floor. Do you think this method will work okay with this Monarch after it becomes a chrysalis? I like that idea of using a bit of cotton ball material. Never worked with a Monarch chrysalis before. My cats seem to want to go to chrysalis too soon so I suspect I will have very small Monarchs.
I’m so glad I found this site. I’ve been trying since early spring for the first time ever to bring Monarchs to my area. I had never seen one in real life, and once I learned why, I immediately searched for plants, put them in the ground, watched them soar to five feet tall, then in July, I went out early on a Saturday morning to see a female Monarch flying between the flower clusters, pausing, then moving on. I found the white dots and was overjoyed! I squished aphids and milkweed bugs with my bare hands and watched over the baby cats as if they were human infants. I lost many due to unknown causes, as I wanted to let this happen as nature intended. At one point in August, I had well over 50 huge fat cats chomping away on milkweed. Then one day, there were NONE on the plants, and I knew they were off to find a place to morph. When I had found five chrysalides, another cat attached to my fence. Yay! I took its picture and drove off to get groceries. When I came back, I was sure I would find him in partially green splendor. What I found instead was a partially black, partially EATEN cat. I had only been gone for an hour. He was dead. As I stared in horror, a yellow jacket landed on him and started chewing. I was heartbroken and furious. But it was a lesson. Now that I know I can bring the chrysalides inside, I’m going home today and gather them all up and do just that. I have a laundry room that is largely unused where I can close the air conditioning vent and the door. My issue is that they are all currently attached to my chain link fence, so there is no “web” to get. Only a tiny section of white cord leading to the black section. How do I move that? I have watched a video of a wasp attacking a newly-emerged Monarch and I can’t stand the thought of it. Any ideas? I’m doing this today, so I may be able to figure something out on my own, but for future reference, I’d appreciate your ideas. Thank you.
I have a question. I have just a very tiny piece of a black tip left from a chrysalis that fell. Can I put a pin through that to hang from the plant? I see that I may also be able to glue it but I am not sure which glues are exactly non toxic that I can use. Please help! This guy fell a few days ago and I am not sure how long I have before he tries to come out. Thanks so much!!
Is there any “webbing” still attached? If so, use un-waxed dental floss and tie a knot to it then tie to a clothes hanger indoors (I hang one from a towel rod in shower). If no, webbing, tie floss as tightly and the best as you can and then use just a teeny tiny, end of toothpick dollop of children’s non-toxic white glue to secure the knot from sliding off. Once dry, hang same as mentioned above.
I have 4 chrysalis that have been hanging for 4 weeks it dropped to 40 and windy are they dead?
Most likely….they are eternally asleep. A normal “hatching” occurs in 10-14 days. I live in deep South Florida…..have 15 that have been “sleeping” for about 6 days. Because it is suppose to be windy and in mid-to-high 50s tonight, I detached 7 that I could reach and brought them inside….they are still attached to their chosen piece of vegetation but I taped all to a flat-sided clothes hanger. All are spaced equally apart, hanging vertically with adequate wing drying space. By bringing them inside…..their likelihood of survival has increased. I wish I had kept a diary over the years of how many Monarchs I have “mid-wifed”……I do have several precious videos of actual emergings.
They are very temperature sensitive. In the high temperatures of summer they take 10-14 days to emerge. In the late fall/early spring they can take a full four weeks. Maybe more. Some species – swallowtails come to mind – can overwinter for months in chrysalis form.
I have a question. Where is the safest spot to relocate a chrysalis? We had 2 monarch butterflies emerge outside and within mins something are 1 of them with only the wings remaining and the other 1 I hope made it. It was starting to rain and so we went inside and when I looked 5 mins later it was gone but a huge lizard was where the butterfly had been. I need help
Yes, lizards, geckos, mice and other creatures will eat monarchs and other butterflies. Nature is cruel. Seems they like to consume the bodies and leave the wings.
You can bring the chrysalis inside and place on a windowsill where it’s exposed to natural light cycles, as long as the locations is not too hot or cold. After butterfly emerges, let wings drop and form properly (about 2 hours), then take outside and release.
Good luck! — MM
Just watched our Monarch come out of it’s chrysalis 2 1/2 hours ago. It had moved to a twig and is still hanging. Is this normal?
I have mine in enclosures on my front porch. When a butterfly moves away from its chrysalis I know it is time to let it climb onto my finger and then I get it to climb onto a nice branch in the sunlight. Yes, sometimes they sit there for hours. Others fly right away. Not to worry. 🙂
Hi, I have a question. I tried to transfer a nickname transfer a newly formed chrysalis and it got damaged before when I tried to detach. It oozed out a,lot of liquid. Is my chrysalis dead? Thanks.
I’m driving about six hours in the car and it can be jiggly for my chrysalises I have about 12 that I have raised. Should I take them down and lay them on cotton to transport them and then hang them back up when I get home?? I’m worried they will fall on the drive
I completely agree with your concern, and I think you are right to lay them on cotton. Maybe use an egg carton with some extra padding so they don’t hit into one another.
Good luck with it!
I have two cats that are J shaped but are hanging within an 1 1/2 of each other at the top of the cage. Will this be too close for them to hatch into a butterfly? Thanks.
I would just leave them. I have had no problems with them emerging. A lot of times they don’t even emerge at the same time.
I live in Mount Vernon, Ohio. I brought in two chrysalises on Friday before the big freeze. I attached them with floss on the webbing to an indoor plant. One had been exposed (though covered with a double layer of heavy baggy) to frost. One was in the breezeway, where it doesn’t freeze. I sent an email off to another butterfly site in MN, but they never replied. I could have mailed the chrysalises to another butterfly place, maybe Texas, packed carefully in cotton, but it’s probably too late now. I can see butterfly wings in the breezeway chrysalis today, Monday. We will have daytime temperatures at 49 F and even 53F until Sunday, though it will rain starting Friday.
This baby looks like it will emerge soon. Should I use simple syrup and feed per your instructions then let it go early morning, mid day? When? Which day? How long to feed it?
P. S. Would you please use my email for a reply, also, if possible? Thanks ever so much.
Also, my yard has been a Monarch destination for years. 21 caterpillars counted at one time. Not many this year, though.
My scientific mind wonders what would have happened if you let them stay where they were. I have heard that butterflies – in some species at least – can overwinter in the chrysalis form. Leaving them outside ensures they won’t emerge too early.
I have three chrysalids on my front porch that formed about November 1st. In the summertime, (Southern California here) they would emerge in 10-14 days. In the fall/winter, it can be two months. But temperatures don’t usually get below freezing here, and I have wondered what temperature they can survive to – and whether they could overwinter in true winter conditions as you have in Ohio.
The butterfly emerged at 10 am, Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2022. I will feed it simple syrup with soy sauce drops (maybe) today and tomorrow morning and release it at 12 pm. It will have 5 hours of 50F to begin it’s journey south. According to weather.com, it should have 2 days of good weather with 5 hours above 50 F before rain begins. Then, a 2-3 days of rain, next clear weather. All these days have temps above 50F.
All I can do is release it and send it Reiki and have Faith.
Good plan. Often they don’t eat in the first 24 hours, so don’t worry if you feed only once before the journey.
I wish you both luck!
Thanks for your advice and comments. Yes, I wondered if they could survive 0 degrees F here also. Or, if I could have moved the one outside the house into the breezeway, where the temperatures would have hovered close to freezing but seldom below. It would have had to stay there until late May, though. That would have been interesting.
The butterfly I wrote to you about had OE I believe. It’s wings didn’t open all the way; I thought maybe it didn’t have a secure perch, (I attached both chrysalids to a Christmas Cactus) and it spent energy trying to secure a perch. Plus, its belly was blotchy. I don’t have a microscope. But, crumpled wings made the ending inevitable.
The second chrysalis had been outside, under plastic, but still, it went below freezing once or twice. I didn’t think it made it, and but moved it to a fern, just in case. It enclosed on the 25th! I draped sheets around the area and fed it for a few days, letting it fly each day for a bit. It progressed in strength and ate the last day on its own. Had a good flight that day also.
Much too late to release it here, but I gave it a great headstart. We shall see.
Thanks again for your scientific mind.
Thank you for the update, Marion! Yes, that is too bad about the one with OE. But great that the other flew!
Yes, it would have been interesting to see if the chrysalis would have survived until May. Other butterfly species do, but I just don’t know about the monarch butterfly chrysalis.
Maybe next year!