Caterpillar to chrysalis

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The caterpillar has changed a lot in the last week. Here it is 19 days after it emerged from the egg. It is about two inches long, and in my opinion, quite handsome.

black swallowtail caterpillar day 19

Later that day it stopped eating and was still. Soon there was a yellowish stain and greenish stuff at the bottom of the cage. Caterpillars often empty their gut before making a chrysalis.

black swallowtail caterpillar preparing to form chrysalis

The next day the caterpillar wandered about the cage, apparently looking for a place to make its chrysalis. Finally it attached itself to the parsley plant (see above) and stayed this way for about 24 hours.

black swallowtail chrysalis

On day 21, I checked the caterpillar often, hoping to see it change into a chrysalis. From previous experience, I know that once the process begins, the caterpillar sheds its skin in a matter of minutes and reveals the chrysalis underneath. However, I missed the actual change and returned to find this chrysalis.

According to The Life Cycles of Butterflies, “During the chrysalis phase, the caterpillar liquefies inside the chrysalis and reorganizes, almost magically transforming into a butterfly. Even after decades of research, all the details of this metamorphosis are not completely understood.” I find all this quite amazing.

This book by Judy Burris and Wayne Richards is one of my favorite butterfly references and their website,, is another excellent source of information.

Now I wait, and hope to have a butterfly in a week or two.

9 thoughts on “Caterpillar to chrysalis”

  1. Amazing and I am so impressed with the neat pictures
    and detailed observation and explanation of how it all
    comes about.

  2. I love your photos Betty. They’re like looking through your eyes to share your experience. It’s wonderful to know that other people share my passion for butterflies…such delicate creatures in a harsh world. For me, they symbolize hope and determination.

  3. Is my swallowtail dying…hasn’t eaten in a week, now off plant in soil…wiggles and releases brown (poop) out bottom. Will he get to the chrysalis stage? Is there anything I can do…I feel badly.

    1. Sherry, thanks for being in touch. Sorry to hear of the problem. Yes, the caterpillar may very well be dying. Can understand you feeling badly. Nature’s ways are complicated. Sometimes all goes well and sometimes it doesn’t. We all want happy endings but any number of things can affect the outcome. When faced with similar situations, I have put the caterpillar outside in a protected place and allowed nature to take its course. You have done what you could. I hope this will not keep you from trying another caterpillar another time.

  4. Beautiful photographs! I hope you don’t mind I have linked to your blog because I use your photos to illustrate what a chrysalis is in a Facebook page. Congratulations, you have a great eye for photography!

    1. Thanks for the feedback and link to my blog, Vanessa. As to using my photographs, would appreciate you giving me credit.

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