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Lepidoptera Curious
Tales from the Butterfly Keeper
Chrysalis & Cocoon Care 
29th-Mar-2006 10:23 am
Some of the sources I have been reading say it is important to mist the cocoons (or chrysalis) a couple of times a week. Others don't mention this at all. What do you think?

Everyone has a different take of caring for the pupa stage, but here is mine:

When it comes to a cocoon or chrysalis, I try to leave well enough alone. If you are in a particularly dry climate, mist the pupa may be helpful to keep it from drying out. I keep a wet lab, with floors that are cleaned daily. My problem is more drying the place out rather than wetting it down. I have found that pupa can get "too wet". Mostly, it is the organic material to which they have attached their pupa that has a problem. The connected leaves, sticks, etc will begin to rot if they are kept too damn, breeding all sorts of fungus and bacteria. It smells bad, and fungus and bacteria just aren't good for us, or the butterfly or moth.

So, in short, if the container is bone dry a spritz of bottled (or otherwise purified) water can probably do them some good, but it is best to go easy on them.

I have a really good rate of success on most species. I move each chrysalis/cocoon into a 4"x4" plastic box with a lid. I pin the silk, stick (whatever the pupa is connected to) into a piece of open cell styrofoam that is attached to the lid with double sided tape. This hanging method is especially important for species that will need gravity to help stretch their wings when they eclose (emerge). Butterflies especially need their wings to dry while they are hanging upside down, otherwise the wings will not extend properly.
2nd-Jun-2006 05:33 pm (UTC) - Need cocoon help
Hello. I need some guidance with caring for a cocoon that a caterpillar has just made. It is in a plastic container and has built its cocoon between the wall and roof of the cage, so if I take the roof off, I may damage the cocoon. There are tiny holes, but not good enough for misting the cocoon very well. When should I begin misting it, how could I get the roof of to do so, and how often should I mist it? Thank you for any help. I also think this spot is not large enough for stretching wings. It completed the cocoon last night. How long do I have before it emerges?

Thank you so much!!
2nd-Jun-2006 06:59 pm (UTC) - Re: Need cocoon help
Ok, a few questions to start with:

1.) What type of moth is it? If not sure, do you have a picture of the caterpillar.
2.) How big is the jar?
3.) What are of the country are you located in?
4.) Have a picture of the cocoon in the jar? I can try to eyeball it and let you know if I come up with any solutions.

As long as it does not get terribly dry, there is not an immediate need to mist the cocoon. You actually don't want them to get too wet, because any biological matter (leaves, poop, etc) can start growing mold in a damp environment. Mold is always bad.

A drop or two of water through the tiny holes will probably be plenty for the weekend. Use bottled water. Chlorine in drinking water is bad.

I will be back in the office monday, but will try to check for replies over the weekend.

23rd-Jun-2006 06:52 pm (UTC) - Re: Need cocoon help
Please help. Thank you for responding to my previous post, but now I have a bit of a new problem. There is some type of strange cotton swab looking material on the cocoon now ... It's been in the cocoon since June 1st. It got cold here a few weeks ago, so I assume it may have gone into diapause. Obviously, I am clueless to this. I tried to send a picture, but that was unsuccessful. Thank you for any assistance once again.
7th-Mar-2007 04:05 pm (UTC) - hello i need some help
hello about a few months ago i found a cocoon in my bedroom and i have kept it in a jar. i am still not really sure what to do with it, and i cannot identifie what it is. i was wandering if you could help me. i know it is still alive because it moves. its it a pale green colour with tiny black dots all over it. i live in the U.K so i was wandering if you could help me find out what it is. it could even be a moth. thank you
17th-Jun-2007 07:04 pm (UTC) - Re: hello i need some help
Sorry it has taken me so long to respond: my email has been eating notification for a while I guess.

IDing the cocoon will be difficult without a picture, but there is always the easy way. Keep it in a jar and see what comes out of it!

Can you get a digital picture and send me the photo? If so I can take a stab at figuring out what it may be (but I am not fantastic with UK leps) but I don't mind trying.
11th-Jun-2007 03:34 am (UTC)
I hope you'll forgive me for bugging you, but you seem to know a lot about this!

We caught a monarch caterpillar. We put him in a jar and then bought a small terrarium in which to keep him. Unfortunately, it was cracked and we didn't want to put him into it for fear of him getting hurt. Unfortunately, however, he pupated before we were able to replace that terrarium. The chrysalis is now hanging from the top of the jar.

My concern is this.

There is old milkweed as well as a paper towel with frass on it in the jar (we didn't realise how far along he was until he started pupating...he was a LOT smaller than the caterpillar we saw last year!). I'm afraid that the old milkweed and frass and what not will cause some harm to the chrysalis. Is this a concern? Could he get mold on him? Should we move the pupae? We have a new terrarium now, but we're hesitant to move the pupae for fear of harming him. However, we don't want to leave him there if that too could harm him!

Thank you for any advice you can give!
17th-Jun-2007 07:07 pm (UTC)
Sorry I haven't responded until now. My email has been eating notifications.

If you can still open the jar, it is pretty safe to do so to remove the contents of the jar. Chrysalis are pretty tough as long as they don't fall a long distance or get squeezed.

I safely move chrysalis every day from their rearing tanks to plastic boxes for pupation. Move the lid into the new tank and just prop it up in such a way that the butterfly can still emerge. When it emerges it will hang from the chrysalis so that its wings may stretch and harden.
17th-Jun-2007 08:26 pm (UTC)
I managed to remove the contents without hurting the chrysalis. He's already emerged and I've already released him. I've taken pictures too if you're interested. :)

Thank you for your advice!
17th-Jun-2007 11:41 pm (UTC)
I'd love to see your pictures :)
17th-Jun-2007 11:59 pm (UTC)

I managed to get some decent ones. I've been calling him a he the entire time. Turns out I was right! :)
10th-Aug-2007 11:11 pm (UTC) - American Daggar Moth
Yesturday my Son found an American Daggar moth we are in ontario Canada, I got a pickle jar and put some sand, a variety of leaves and a small piece of cardboard with a little branch of leaves sticking out the middle. Problem is today he is spinning a cocoon like a madman and has attached his self to the cardboard and I'm afraid to remove the leaves he is touching in case I damage him while He is spinning. How long will it take for him to come out once he is finished, I can still kinda see him moving in there. Will the stuff in the jar with him hurts his wings once he comes out if I leave it?
14th-Aug-2007 12:10 pm (UTC) - Re: American Daggar Moth
The leaves shouldn't be any problem for the adult moth. Theyare used to emerging in such conditions. As long as the adult has room to emerge from the pupa and maybe a small stick to climb so that its wings may expand and harden, all will be well.

Some moths even bury their pupa in the leaf mulch to better hide and survive winter. In the spring they emerge and climb up through the leaf litter to stretch out their wings.
22nd-Aug-2007 02:19 am (UTC) - care of cocoon
I teach preschool, the kids and I just found a cocoon on the ground after a recent storm. We put it in a large jar with air holes, grass and twigs, but is is not attached to anything it can hang from. The kids are really anxious to see it hatch, I was wondering if there is any hope for it and if there is anything I can do to promote a healthy moth or butterfly emerging. Any advice appreciated.
24th-Sep-2007 12:47 pm (UTC) - Re: care of cocoon
Some moths make cocoons that rest on the ground or even under the dirt. Just provide a few sticks for your moth once he emerges. This way he can climb and stretch his wings. Other than that: keep a good medium temperature, medium humidity and keep it like a nice time of year outside.
12th-Nov-2007 08:35 pm (UTC) - Re: care of cocoon
Most larvae do not make a peduncle(piece that sticks to branch)and will fall to the ground. If you live more towards the south there is a bigger chance that it fell, because it seems more larvae make peduncles in the south for some reason.The cocoon should be okay unless it was killed during the storm.Try not to keep it in a moister place because if it dries out it will die.
12th-Nov-2007 08:36 pm (UTC) - Re: care of cocoon
Most larvae do not make a peduncle(piece that sticks to branch)and will fall to the ground. If you live more towards the south there is a bigger chance that it fell, because it seems more larvae make peduncles in the south for some reason.The cocoon should be okay unless it was killed during the storm.Try to keep it in a moister place because if it dries out it will die.
23rd-Sep-2007 02:25 pm (UTC) - Need Help

I think I messed up badly.

I have a dozen luna moth cocoons, and recently attended a lecture where the lecturer opened up a luna moth cocoon to display the pupa. Since the cocoons are so insubstantial, I did the same with my cocoons, not sure what I was thinking.

Now the pupa are going crazy, moving extremely vigoriously. Is that ok? What do I do now?
24th-Sep-2007 12:45 pm (UTC) - Re: Need Help
They should be ok. Make sure there are some sticks they can climb after eclosing so they can stretch their wings to dry. The cocoons will 'dance' like that as a way of scaring off predators. They should settle down when they realize they are not being eaten.
24th-Sep-2007 06:24 pm (UTC) - Re: Need Help
Thanks! I had put all of the pupa togther, so when one wiggled, they all got bumped, and went into a 'pupa dance'. I separated them and all is now well with them, thanks so much! Ill send pictures when thbey start coming out.

9th-Oct-2007 01:18 am (UTC) - need cocoon help
I have a spotted tussock moth cocoon (just made today) in a plastic container with celaphaine w/ air holes is there anything i need to do to care for it? (mist it ect...) I live in Idaho
14th-Nov-2007 02:13 am (UTC) - Luna moth cocoon
Hey, I just found my first luna moth cocoon at the base of a big persimmon tree. I plan to find more soon. Is there a way I can get them to emerge sooner, by adding heat/moisture or something? It's obviously overwintering, and I want one for an insect collection.
28th-Apr-2008 05:18 am (UTC) - swallowtail chrysalis on our door
Hi, I'm not sure if you still check this site, as the last post on the subject was a while ago. A few days ago, a swallowtail caterpillar made his chrysalis on our front door. We love that it's there, and are being very careful opening and closing the door. However, our apartment complex has been painting, and we'd like to move the chrysalis to a safer spot to avoid having it painted by mistake. We live in Central FL, and aren't sure how long it will be before the butterfly will emerge. Please give any advice you can on the subject, most importantly, if and how we could remove the chrysalis from the front door without damaging it.

Thanks in advance...

Lisa and Paul
28th-Apr-2008 01:07 pm (UTC) - Re: swallowtail chrysalis on our door

I always reccomend leaving a chrysalis in place unless you are in dire need of moving it.

With that said, look very carefully at how it is attached to the door. There will be a tiny pad od silk holding it in place. Use a spray bottle to lightly mist the silk with clean water. This will help loosen the silk. With a straight pin, gently slip under the silk at a few locations and peel it away from the door slowly and in one piece. You can then pin through the silk to connect the chrysalis to a styrofoam or paper cup and set that inside a decent sized plastic container. Try to pin the chrysalis in the same orientation in which it was previously hanging.

Good luck and mail us photos if you take any.
21st-Aug-2008 12:12 am (UTC)
Hello- I encountered a humongous green caterpillar in my travels to the north of Saskatchewan this summer for a family reunion, and was quite taken with it, following it as it crawled all over the table. I had it in a plastic cup for about an hour with a stick and an apple to see if it would eat anything, but seeing it was disinterested, I set the cup on its side in the woods so the caterpillar could leave when it chose.

What a surprise when I came back the next day to find a cocoon! I showed everybody in the family- but perhaps I was a bit enthusiastic... I left the cup behind- or so I thought! When I got on the plane I discovered it in my purse! (A prank by one of my cousins, I suspect!)

Now this poor little thing is all the way in Vancouver! I want to help it emerge from its cocoon if at all possible- though I'm sure it won't survive too long over here...

Please help me! Here's a picture of the worm...

15th-Jul-2010 11:15 pm (UTC) - luna moth pupa-moving help!

Two days ago I came across a giant green caterpillar, resembling very much the one pictured above. I took him or her home and named him pickle, after putting him in a pickle jar and realizing that he looked a lot like a pickle. I did some research and was so excited to discover that he was Luna moth caterpillar. I got him some sumac to eat and was worried about him because he wasn't eating it, until this morning when I woke up to find him in a beautiful cocoon! I moved him into a bigger jar before h made his cocoon which is good, but I still don't know if its big enough. It's a little smaller than a gallon. But more worrisome to me is the fact that he made his cocoon on the underside of a stick, but also attached a small part of his cocoon to the side of the jar. So, should I move him to a bigger jar? How could I remove the cocoon from the glass of the jar? Does he need to continue to hang? If I need to move him, is it better to do so when he is in the cocoon stage or the chrysalis stage? I want to make sure he is in an ideal position to emerge as a beautiful luna. Thanks and I appreciate any help you could give me.
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