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by Anthony Gomez

4 years ago

Raising Butterflies Blog

How to Stop Stressing Over Pre-Chrysalis Crazy Swallowtail Caterpillars!? 🐛😱

How To Stop Stressing Over Pre-Chrysalis Crazy Swallowtail Caterpillars? 🐛😱

4 years ago


By Anthony Gomez

How To Stop Stressing Over Pre-Chrysalis Crazy Swallowtail Caterpillars?

by Anthony Gomez

4 years ago

Let Swallowtail Caterpillars Choose WHERE to form Chrysalides, make adjustments if needed…

If you’ve never raised swallowtail caterpillars before, you might be surprised to see them going pre-chrysalis crazy as they prepare to enter the 3rd stage of the butterfly life cycle.

First, they purge to clear themselves of excess waste before forming the chrysalis. This frassy mess is alarming to many who think their swallowtail is explosively sick!💩🤒 No worries, just another swallowtail caterpillar ready to make a miraculous change:

Before Swallowtails form their Chrysalis they purge their systems of waste, which can be alarming, but it's a normal part of their metamorphosis Oops…did I do that?! 🐛

Next, they crawl around frantically looking for the perfect place to pupate. For monarchs, this typically leads us to the cage roof, which makes it convenient for raisers to enter a side-opening cage without bothering the chrysalides inside. Swallowtails often have other plans…

They’ll pupate on cuttings containers, cuttings, plants, pots, under paper towels, piggyback on top of other chrysalides:

This tiger swallowtail caterpillar attached himself to the bottom of another chrysalis. Thankfully, this did not cause any issues for the emerging butterflies- Raising Eastern Tiger Swallowtail Life CycleThe Perfect Spot to Form my Chrysalis…on Top of Yours! 🐛

I’ve had this happen twice and left the piggybacked pair in place both times. Since the top of the chrysalises weren’t obstructed, both butterflies emerged without issue.

On the viewing window side of the cage:

Black swallowtail caterpillars spin a silk girdle which allows them to lay back to form their chrysalis. Why Hello Beautiful!

This is an issue because a butterfly can not climb this PVC material. So, in this case, I removed the chrysalis and placed it on the cage floor by a mesh wall.

They’ll even form chrysalises inside holes in the bottom of an egg carton that we (formerly) used to hold floral tubes:

If a swallowtail makes a chrysalis in a dangerous or inconvenient place, let them and then remove the swallowtail chrysalis 48 hours later.Hehe..they’ll never find me in here

You could try controlling where swallowtail caterpillars pupate, but this requires you to watch for the caterpillar purge💩, then pick up or guide the caterpillar into a paper bag to make the transformation. This wastes your time, while stressing out both you 😱 and the caterpillar 🐛…and what if you’re not sure which caterpillar purged? 🐛🐛🤔

It’s much easier to deal with relocation after the chrysalis is formed. If you’re happy with the caterpillar-chosen location, just leave the chrysalis in place and let nature take its course…

If the chrysalis is on a host plant with other caterpillars, interfering with another chrysalis, or you need to disinfect the cage, follow the simple steps for chrysalis removal on our overwintering swallowtails page:

How To Safely Remove a Swallowtail Chrysalis

Once the chrysalis has been detached and is sitting safely on the floor of your cage, the butterfly will take care of the rest. Newborn swallowtails are more active than monarchs and healthy butterflies will have no problem crawling up a mesh wall:

Floor Birth! A giant swallowtail emerges from its chrysalis on a butterfly cage floor and climbs up a mesh wall to dry its wings.Floor Birth!

This spring we had 8 butterflies emerge, and all climbed up to dry without issue and are now flying free, ready to start a new generation of giants:

Two floor born Giant Swallowtails climbed a mesh wall to open up their wings and dry them for flight

If you’ve stressed out over swallowtail caterpillars entering the chrysalis stage, I hope your frazzled nerves find this raising technique more agreeable. 😊