What is wrong with my butterfly chrysalis?

Butterfly chrysalis deformities are not unusual.

Monarch chrysalis cocoon pupa damaged antennae

Monarch butterfly chrysalis
With damaged antennae

The change from caterpillar to chrysalis is a quick change, a total of about three minutes.

Monarch caterpillar pupating into a chrysalis cocoon pupa

Monarch caterpillar pupating
into a chrysalis

Monarch butterfly chrysalis damaged by a little piece of a leaf or twig

Monarch butterfly chrysalis
damaged by a little piece
of a leaf or twig.
This damage is done only to
a soft chrysalis, before it hardens.

A large insect crawled on this J'ing caterpillar and tore its skin. When it tried to pupate, the weakest point opened instead of the proper tear line behind its head.

A large insect crawled on this J’ing
caterpillar and tore its skin.
When it tried to pupate,
the weakest point opened instead
of the proper tear line behind its head.

Deformed Black Swallowtail chrysalis pupa cocoon

Deformed Black Swallowtail
butterfly chrysalis

Monarch butterfly chrysalis pupa cocoon with a fatal deformity

Monarch butterfly chrysalis pupa cocoon with a fatal deformity

Monarch chrysalises pupae one deformed and one normal

Monarch butterfly chrysalises
One deformed and one normal
The chrysalis on the right was on
a stick that lowered to rest on
the bottom of the rearing container
when it was half-way hardened

Zebra Longwing chrysalis deformed by wing pads that did not adhere to the chrysalis body

Zebra Longwing chrysalis
deformed by wing pads that
fell downward and did not
adhere to the chrysalis body

Monarch chrysalis (head portion) with wing pads that filled with hemolymph and didn't adhere to the chrysalis body before it hardened

Monarch butterfly chrysalis
(head portion) with wing pads
that filled with hemolymph and
didn’t adhere to the chrysalis
body before it hardened

Monarch chrysalis -  a silk strand caught in the wrong part of the chrysalis as it pupate and prevented the cuticle from working further up and falling off the caterpillar/chrysalis

Monarch butterfly deformed
chrysalis – a silk strand caught
in the wrong part of the
chrysalis as it pupated and
prevented the cuticle from working
further up and falling off the caterpillar/chrysalis

A second caterpillar walked on this Monarch chrysalis, making small punctures in the half-hardened shell.  Droplets of blood dried to black scabs at each tiny puncture.

A second caterpillar walked
on this Monarch chrysalis,
making small punctures in
the half-hardened shell.
Droplets of blood dried to
black scabs at each tiny puncture.

To learn what happens when the adult butterfly emerges from a flawed chrysalis, visit our 'Chrysalis Flaws' webpage.

To learn what happens
when the adult butterfly
emerges from a flawed
chrysalis, visit our
‘Chrysalis Flaws’ webpage.

To change from a caterpillar to a chrysalis or pupa, the caterpillar literally wriggles out of its cuticle.

The new chrysalis is soft and easily deformed for the first hour after pupating. Anything that touches the soft chrysalis can cause damage. Some damage is natural, caused by twigs or leaves surrounding the soft chrysalis. Other damage is caused by an insect or other critter touching the J’ing caterpillar or soft chrysalis.

Some deformities will never be noticed when the adult butterfly emerges. Other deformities will cause death to the chrysalis or to the adult butterfly.

An improperly placed silk strand can prevent the caterpillar cuticle from moving upward and off of the chrysalis. Chrysalises with this problem will be part caterpillar and part chrysalis. Other problems can cause this same ‘half-and-half’ chrysalis. An adult butterfly cannot emerge from these chrysalises.

In a late instar older caterpillar, the adult wing pads are already formed. After it pupates, the wing pads are loose for the first few minutes. The chrysalis slowly smooths its outside and hardens. In the chrysalis stage, the wings continue to mature. In a few cases, after the caterpillar pupates, the wing pads fall downward before the chrysalis reforms into its species’ shape. These chrysalises will die.

If another caterpillar or insect walks over a soft chrysalis, its tarsi (feet) can puncture the chrysalis’ cuticle. Tiny droplets of hemolymph will ooze from these punctures. The drops turn black as the hemolymph scabs over the punctures. In many cases, the adult butterfly will be normal.

To learn what happens when an adult butterfly emerges from its flawed or deformed chrysalis, visit our Chrysalis Deformities webpage by clicking on this sentence.

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