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.
All slide show photos by Monika Maeckle
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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