Raising Butterflies Blog
How to Stop Stressing Over Pre-Chrysalis Crazy Swallowtail Caterpillars!? 🐛😱
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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
If you’ve stressed out over swallowtail caterpillars entering the chrysalis stage, I hope your frazzled nerves find this raising technique more agreeable. 😊