Monarch Butterflies Emerging From Their Chrysalis

Hello and welcome to another adventure in the life cycle of the Monarch butterfly! Last week we looked at how the Monarch caterpillar changes into its chrysalis. Today we’ll see what happens when it’s time for the butterfly to emerge from the chrysalis. (Hang on until the end of this post for the video!) So just to remind you, here’s what the Monarch butterfly’s chrysalis looks like.

When the time for the butterfly to emerge is getting close, the chrysalis will start to turn a darker color and look black. Notice in this picture that one chrysalis looks green but the one in the background is black.

Here is a closer look.

Did you notice that you can see the butterfly’s wing inside the chrysalis? My pictures aren’t super clear because they are taken looking through the plastic container, but here is a picture taken with a flashlight shining on the chrysalis.

Whoa!! How cool is that?! The chrysalis is now very thin and you can see the butterfly! Next, the chrysalis starts to slowly open. Can you see along the left hand side that the chrysalis is splitting open?

Then the split becomes a little wider. The butterfly is hanging upside down right now and you can start to see its head coming out first.

The butterfly is dropping down a little lower now. You can start to see its legs that are folded up close to its head.

It’s now beginning to slide out of the chrysalis!

Sliding farther out…almost there! The chrysalis will stay attached to the top of the container as the butterfly slides down and out of it.

And it’s out! Look how big it’s body looks right now and how small and folded up it’s wings are.

The butterfly grabs a hold of the empty chrysalis and it will hang right side up now.

As the butterfly hangs on the chrysalis, it will pump fluid into its wings and the wings will begin to expand and the body will become smaller. This next picture was taken 5 minutes after the butterfly emerged or eclosed. Its wings are still wrinkled looking.

Then 10 minutes…it’s wings are looking straighter.

And then here is 15 minutes after emerging.

It takes a couple of hours for the butterfly to finish this process and for it’s wings to expand and dry off. They don’t need to eat right away so it’s good to give them time to dry off and to begin to flex their wings. After a few hours have passed, I carefully open the container and put my hand close to the butterfly and they usually climb onto my finger. And then it’s time to set them free outside.

Here is a video I took of the process of the butterfly emerging from it’s chrysalis. It is so amazing to watch this happen!

It has been such a rewarding experience for me to help these beautiful creatures along in their transformation from a tiny little egg into an amazing gorgeous butterfly! This is my second year of raising and releasing Monarchs and I hope I can continue to do so for many years to come! I hope you have enjoyed coming along with me on this journey! 🙂

It all starts with a tiny butterfly egg…

We have talked about butterflies emerging from their chrysalis and we’ve done some fun butterfly crafts but we skipped the part of how the chrysalis come to be. So here’s a few interesting details and lots of pictures to show what happens when the tiny Monarch butterfly egg hatches. 🙂 The female Monarch butterfly lays eggs only on a milkweed plant because that is the only plant the Monarch caterpillar will eat. There are different types of milkweed but here is what the Common Milkweed looks like:

The eggs are so small that its easy to miss seeing them on the leaves. Be sure to look at the underside of the leaf too. When a Monarch caterpillar hatches, they are very tiny. See if you can find the little guy in this picture. The little black dots are caterpillar poop or frass.

The Monarch caterpillar has the distinctive black, white and yellow stripes. Here is a caterpillar that I found on a milkweed plant close by our house. He has grown quite a bit bigger!

If you find a Monarch caterpillar, you can bring him inside and fix a nice little place for him to grow until its time for him to turn into a chrysalis. (Butterflies make a chrysalis and moths make cocoons.) There are little pet houses available for purchase for around $6-$7 that work really well. Place a damp paper towel on the bottom of the cage, add a stick for climbing and some fresh milkweed leaves every 24 hours. Make sure the top of the cage has air holes but the holes shouldn’t be big enough for the caterpillar to climb through. They WILL escape if they can fit through the holes! 😉 A screen is a great thing to use.

Yep…they poop a lot! That’s probably because they also EAT a lot! Ok, we’ll take a minute to have some fun! Let’s go on a caterpillar search! The first picture has just one caterpillar in it. Can you spot him?

Good job! Now the next picture has 2 caterpillars. Do you see both of them?

You are good at this! Ok, now for the hard one! This picture has 4 caterpillars in it! One of them is only just peeking the tip of his head out…look around the center of the picture, off to the right just a bit. Did you find all 4?

Are you ready to find out what happens next? The caterpillars go through stages called instars and they will shed their skin because they have outgrown it. Finally, when the caterpillar is finished growing, he will crawl to the top of the cage and attach himself to it. Then he will hang upside down in the shape of the letter J and this is called “j-hanging”. Can you see the caterpillar that looks like a J?

The next stage is where he goes into his chrysalis. They will hang in the J shape for a while, but when they go into the chrysalis it only takes a couple of minutes for it to happen so its hard to catch them at just the right time to see it happen.

You might even find a chrysalis hanging outside if you look carefully.

And then we are back to where we started a few posts ago…waiting for the butterflies to emerge from their chrysalis! When they first emerge, their wings are wrinkled like this butterfly.

But within just a few minutes, his wings will begin to flatten out.

Here are 2 butterflies that emerged within minutes of each other.

Its best not to release the butterflies outside if it is raining, so these 2 were enjoying a bit of watermelon sweetness while waiting for the storm to pass.

But then it was time for them to venture out on their own and start the cycle all over again. 🙂

I hope you have enjoyed our butterfly adventures! It’s been so much fun sharing this with you! 🙂

Chrysalis Update!

Guess what?! Our Monarch’s metamorphosis is complete!! I’m so excited!! I’ve been trying to keep a close eye on our chrysalis, but our butterfly snuck out of the chrysalis when I wasn’t looking! Sneaky thing! It happened so fast! Let’s back up in our story just a little bit. Here’s how our Monarch was looking on Monday evening…

The chrysalis was a light green color and you could barely make out what looked like lines on wings when looking at the side of it. But things changed by Tuesday evening…

The chrysalis had become a very dark color…a dark green or almost black. That’s how it looked Wednesday morning when we got up. I was working in the kitchen…where the chrysalis has been “hanging out” in its little box sitting on the counter. I hadn’t looked at it for maybe half an hour and so I glanced over, expecting to not see much difference yet. SURPRISE!!!! The butterfly had already emerged!! I was completely shocked at how fast it changed!

You can see what is left of the chrysalis hanging beside the butterfly. Over the next little while, the butterfly’s wings seemed to stretch out flatter.

We gave a chrysalis to our daughter and her family and theirs also emerged today!

There is one more chrysalis that I bought at the Pollinators Festival and we gave that one to our son and daughter-in-law. As of this morning, theirs hadn’t turned the darker color yet. I’ll keep you posted on that one as I get news from them. For the rest of today, our butterfly will just be hanging out in his little home and tomorrow he will get to venture out into the big world! If you get a chance to raise a Monarch butterfly, DO IT!! I can’t tell you how much we are enjoying this! I’ll be back tomorrow to let you know how this butterfly’s release goes! 🙂