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.
Queen chrysalis on door. Not a good spot to hatch a butterfly. Photo by Monika Maeckle
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?