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Once the 5th instar caterpillar is ready to go into the chrysalis, it should be put inside a bigger cup or a mesh enclosure. We use 12x12x12x12" enclosures to hold chrysalides.

The caterpillar will climb up on the side or top of the mesh enclosure and form a "J"shape for 24-72 hours. If you are raising Swallowtails, they will attach themselves to the side of the enclosure by a silk girdle. The caterpillar usually starts to change colors in this time to match the chrysalis, and some species will start to become swollen below the head.

Any time between 24-72 hours of continuous "J hanging", the caterpillar's skin will spilt open. Starting at the neck, the caterpillar will push its skin off (like molting) until the chrysalis has fully covered the caterpillar. Its old skin will fall off, and the new chrysalis will be very soft and fragile. Leave the chrysalis like this for around 3 days until it hardens. DO NOT TOUCH OR MOVE IT.

After about 3 days, the chrysalis should have hardened enough to be able to be touched or moved. Do not touch chrysalides all the time though, as this can cause them stress or damage. It usually takes chrysalides 10-14 days to become butterflies, so the next few weeks will be all about patience.

After around 2 weeks, the chrysalis should start to darken, and you will be able to see the wings inside. If your chrysalis turns black but you cannot see the wings, that usually means they are dead or parasitized. If you can see the wings, this means your chrysalis will probably be hatching the next day. Be ready for their emergence, as it doesn't take them that long for them to be able to fly around.

Once your Butterfly emerges, its wings will be all crumpled up and soft. Do not worry, this is normal. It usually takes butterflies 1-2 hours to expand their wings. While they are doing this, they will excrete a liquid called meconium that can look like blood for certain species. It is not blood; it is actually waste from the chrysalis that the butterfly did not need. Caterpillars turn into goo inside the chrysalis, then they mold into a butterfly. There is extra goo that the butterfly does not need, so it excretes it out in the form of meconium.

After 4-5 hours, the butterfly should be able to fly around. To release it, bring the enclosure the chrysalis was in outside, open it up and let the butterfly fly out on its own. If you don't want to do that, you can try to coax the butterfly onto your finger and let it fly away when it wants to.


A Monarch Caterpillar in the "J" shape.


A newly formed Gulf Fritillary chrysalis.


A group of hardened Painted Lady chrysalides.


A Zebra Longwing pupa right before eclosing.


This Painted Lady eclosed from its pupa 1 hour ago.


A Variegated Fritillary Butterfly.

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