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Monarch Caterpillar Sheds Skin and Starts Pupa Stage

On Monday, after about three days in the “J” position (see the post for images), this Monarch caterpillar straightened out and began to shed its outer skin. In the time it took me to get my camera, the gyrations began and the skin was almost shed. It appears that the skin behind its neck and shoulders split and then the caterpillar wiggled its way out of the skin. It remained attached to the milkweed leaf throughout the process.

A green caterpillar on a leaf.
A green caterpillar is emerging from a leaf.
A green and yellow caterpillar on a leaf.
A green caterpillar on a leaf.
A caterpillar is coming out of a leaf.
A green caterpillar is emerging from a leaf.

The chrysalis (the new skin) is very soft after shedding but within an hour, it hardens to become a protective shell for the caterpillar inside. During the next 9-14 days, this caterpillar will transform into a butterfly. I hope to be able to photograph the progression. The leaf this caterpillar is attached to, it starting to yellow. I hope it remains attached until this Monarch emerges. The question is, should I put a protective wrap around the entire plant to protect it from predators?

I found this nice detailed photograph that illustrates the pupa transformation.

6 thoughts on “Monarch Caterpillar Sheds Skin and Starts Pupa Stage”

  1. Toni - Signature Gardens

    Very cool!!! So excited to see the transformation complete. I’ll keep checking back 🙂 I’d be tempted to put some protection around it, but nature must take its course, I reckon.

  2. Great pictures. I wouldn’t put any protection around it. Once the butterfly comes out of the chrysalis it will need to spread and dry its wings. I have had dozens over the past year, and most of them make it without protection.

    1. Jacqueline D'Elia

      Thank you. I checked it today and the leaf (now yellow) that the chrysalis is attached to looks like it is ready to drop off the plant. If the chrysalis falls to the ground, should it be picked up and placed somewhere?

  3. I’ve had one in a bad place – right on the window pane – that didn’t make it, it fell off and I put it on a the ledge but it didn’t open. Most of mine have been on the fence, under our windows, on the eaves, etc. Some have been in weird places, and far away from the plants. I really think I have had about 50 since September and I still have new ones. Unfortunately my plants are stripped bare now.

    If you can pick the leaf off and tack it to something horizontal, that might be helpful. The weather doesn’t bother them, but if the butterfly comes out laying on the ground, I don’t think it can spread its wings.

    Good luck!

  4. I raise them, so I have had lots of host plants not last during the pupa process.

    Also having chop sticks or skewer sticks to weave into the half dead leaf is possible, also those long toothpicks can work!

    A plain paper towel works also as a hanger… if the area stays dry.

    With the weather extremes we have (rain) I move all that I find to a area that has a overhang so the rain cannot disturb the process when it happens.

    Many fall off a host plant leaf.. and they can be left on a paper towel that is slightly hung onto something..

    The newly hatched butterfly will walk up and just flap it’s wings dry!

    If there is no wind that day!

    If one has fallen off.. it’s very easy to fix, if there are many days before the change.

    I put the setting on low to my hot glue gun and when it’s just warm.. and I am able to push the hot glue out
    I put that warm glue on the on the cremaster (stem) and hold it in place until the glue is hard.. and then I can move away the chrysalis is now secured!

    Two great web sites filled with data and comments from folks and one saying not to use SUPER GLUE :


  5. Such cool pictures! I think that is something I would never think to look for. Great to see something different.

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