Chrysalis Into Butterfly (The Butterfly Life Cycle)

Monarch butterfly chrysalis in my garden. Photo by Donna L. Long

The butterfly chrysalis is the stage where metamorphosis occurs. Metamorphosis is a process through which a larval form becomes a winged adult.

Pipevine Swallowtail chrysalis. Photo by Donna L. Long.

What is a Chrysalis?

The chrysalis is the pupa form of an insect. The word “pupae” comes from a Greek word meaning ‘gold’. Some butterfly pupae cases have a gold or metallic sheen. Some of these cases have gold or metallic dots.

They come in all shapes and sizes. Each species looks different. Some are green or brown. The color helps to camouflage the case.

Butterflies do not make cocoons. Moths make cocoons. A butterfly makes a chrysalis. 


Monarch chrysalis ready to emerge.Photo by Donna L. Long.

Metamorphosis Begins

Once a caterpillar changes or pupate, its body transformation begins. The chrysalis may hang upside down or be anchored by a silken thread to a stem. Inside the dull green or brown case, the caterpillar liquefies. The tissues and structure of the caterpillar transform into the body of an adult butterfly. Scientists have not figured out all the details of just how this happens.

It takes two weeks or less for the metamorphosis to occur.

Surviving the Winter

If a caterpillar enters the pupae stage during the cooler autumn months, then it may wait out winter by going into diapause. Diapause is a stage like hibernation, where all growth stops. It will continue its transformation and emerge once the weather warms up in spring.

When a butterfly emerges the wings are crumbled and small. The butterfly pumps liquid through the veins of the wings. The wings stretch and expand to their true size.

It is now an adult. It begins the last phase of its life cycle.

Monarch butterfly on pink zinnia flower in my garden
Monarch butterfly on pink zinnia flower in my garden. Photo by Donna L. Long

Tomorrow’s post: The Final Stage: The Adult butterfly.

More on Butterflies


Butterfly Life: How Butterflies are Born, Live, and Support Earth’s Ecosystems
by Donna L. Long
In pdf, epub, and paperback starting at $4.99 Buy here







Other pages about the butterfly life cycle; egg and caterpillar

Swallowtail Butterfly Family

Butterfly and Moths Information and Links

Observing Butterflies At Home and Far Away

Identifying Common Butterflies: Photo Gallery  


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