How to Raise a Monarch Butterfly
Part IV of V



Have you read parts 1,  2 and  3?  You need to.

If you do not read Parts I, II and III of How to Raise a Butterfly,  I cannot be held responsible for what may happen to you.  I can’t say for sure, but you may become pregnant.  Or grow warts.  One of the two anyway.

O.K.!  Now that you’re all caught up we can continue on.
How to Raise a Butterfly Part IV
Once your caterpillar has been hanging in the shape of a “J” for between 12 – 24 hours it’ll decide it’s time to become a chrysalis. In my climate I’ve found 12 hours is usually how long it takes. (the warmer the weather, the quicker your caterpillar will grow, pupate and emerge)

You’ll know it’s  only a minute or two away from becoming a chrysalis when it’s antennae go from fairly sturdy looking to completely limp.  Like all the life has drained out of them.




They’ll look how you feel after having coffee with that friend  you swore you’d never have coffee with again because they NEVER shut up.

So the antennae go completely limp and then the caterpillar loses it’s “J” formation and hangs straight down.

And then within seconds this happens …



Ahem .. YES … that is its skin splitting open to reveal no guts, no innards, no tiny caterpillar brain … but a chrysalis.  INSIDE ITS OWN SKIN!!!



Notice it’s antennae shedding off with the skin?



As the skin splits, the caterpillar starts to convulse to help the skin come off.



The newly emerged chrysalis is still soft and … um … unfortunate looking.  Sort of reminiscent of … well, it’s icky.

Over the next hour or so the chrysalis settles down and starts to shrink and firm up a bit.


The chrysalis is now a dark jade colour with shocking metallic beads along the back and front of it.  A chrysalis could have toured with the King Tut exhibit.  Easily.  ‘Cause it’s so shiny gold.




And now you wait. For 10 days … you wait. Perhaps you could invite that friend over for coffee to kill some time.




  1. Ellie the Squirt says:

    Do the chrysalis have to be in the sun?

    Also, I keep your blog up in a tab all the time as a go-to if I have questions. You are a very gifted writer and photographer.

    Amen and Amen!

    That’s all, folks.

  2. Cynthia Jones says:

    Ahem! I think there is a weirdo post just above mine. (mine’s not from a weirdo).

    I had no idea the chrysalis was inside. I could have sworn they spun it. I am amazed. I think David Attenborough would love to see these pictures. What an amazing job you did.

    The gold stuff. I wonder what it is. I wonder if it is related to any colourings or spots on the end result butterfly. I just wonder and wonder. You took me back to my childhood, when I would use a thumb tack to pin the leaf of an oleander bush onto my wall and wait for the butterfly to hatch. Thank you so much.

    Russel Brand….fascinating as hell, you can never be sure if he is icky or the new Messiah. I think he thinks the latter.

  3. A neutron walks into a bar and orders a drink and asks the bartender how
    much. Yep, you heard that right, they love themselves some porn. Your sweetheart made a substantial
    show connected with dropping so that you can her
    joints and gasping prefer I’d virtually choked lifespan out of her.

  4. Mindy says:

    That is crazy and insane. And a tad bit disgusting.

  5. Karen this is utterly incredible! Absolutely fascinating, and yes, more than a little gross.

    Can I ask how on earth you managed to get these pictures? Do you have a special lens? And have you been sitting up all hours waiting for the -exact- moment all these changes take place?

    If you have, thank you! It’s made for great reading.

    • Karen says:

      My Honest Answer – Yes. I had to do a lot of sitting and waiting to get the pictures. Thank you for noticing. 🙂 ~ karen

  6. marné says:

    I so want to do this, I even dreamed about milk weed last night. I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen it around here, but I’m going to start looking.

    The pictures in this post are both fascinating and disturbing. I blame you if I end up having crazy dreams tonight.

  7. Missnicoleo says:

    I love you. that is all.

  8. susie says:

    OOOOooooo I did it!! Well, okay, my 13 year old son did it – but I drove him to the stinkin milkweed and it was my idea, so I’m taking partial credit – we (ie, he) found a monarch butterfly caterpillar & we are taking him home on his little milkweed perch & we will love him & feed him & clean up his poop & feed him & clean up his poop & love him & clean up his poop until he turns into a beautiful butterfly! So excited! There may even be a couple more eggs on the milkweed we collected – it’s hard to tell if they are eggs or just random white spots on the plant, but we will keep our eyes on them also just in case. Thank you for the idea Karen! This little guy is so cute, only about a 1/4″ long, just a toddler really – I’m so proud of my baby!! : )

    • Karen says:

      Susie! Congratulations! This will be a LOT of fun for the both of you. It pleases me to no end to have people going out and doing this! ~ karen

  9. Leanne says:

    That was disgusting. I liked it. You should go get a massage. I’m pretty sure it’s not healthy to assume the picture taking stance for that long a period of time. Next time you should have someone photographing you photographing this intriguingly disgusting process. I’m pretty sure they would be equally fascinating. just saying…

  10. Thanks for sharing. It is important to note that once the caterpillar hooks onto the top of the container, don’t move it. They are very sensitive at this point and until they make the chrysalsis and too much movement can cause deformities.

  11. Kelsey says:

    oh damn i hate being in a different hemisphere right now……i have just checked out ‘christophe’ (we named it….it’s a he, because boys are outnumbered in our family…..and Christophe, because it’s nearly christmas and he looks far too pretty to be just Christoper.
    So Christophe could really come any day now….
    PS. I checked, they are here in Australia and we call them Wanderer Butterflys…..clearly they wandered a long way!

  12. Anemone says:

    Wow…you are a great photographer…The pix are beautiful and the one that looks like it had gold beads…wow…i learned soo much…thank you for being soo patient and capturing these pix. It is mysterious in a way and its hard to understand how the caterpillar knows to stick its butt to the roof or how it knows it has that giant crysalis inside.

  13. susan w says:

    repeating myself and everybody who is witnessing this – oh wow oh wow oh wow.

    We raised painted lady butterflies from tiny caterpillars in our kindergarten classroom. I learned that the metallic dots are light sensors so the chrysalis turns to and away from sunlight.

    This is just so so wonderful.

  14. Erica says:

    I just can’t get over these images. WOW. Thank you.

  15. Janelle LaCroix says:

    One one level I really appreciate the educational value of these butterfly posts. On a totally different level, I think I just became a lesbian…if you know what I mean.

  16. Stacey says:

    I’m amazed. Simply speechless, and for those that know me, that’s a monumental accomplishment.

  17. Sam says:

    This is seriously amazing and traumatizing. You are a better woman than most to document this the way you have. awesome…..and gross, and awesome. I’m so confused. 😉

  18. Natalie says:

    That is amazing… and icky. Just as nature should be! Thank you Karen, your patience and the butterfly process astound me!

  19. Valentina says:

    This is really fascinating. I have never seen the whole process so detailed… thanks Karen!

  20. Vila says:

    What fascinates me even more then all these photos you’ve made is that you know each and every phase by heart! That must have taken some serious monitoring 😉 and yes, thanks a bunch for the photos! I don’t think National G. could have made them any better!

  21. Stefanie says:

    These posts about the butterflys have been absolutely amazing!! Your photography is fantastic and the information is fascinating! As you can tell I have really been enjoying this information about the butterflys. Thanks so much for sharing!

  22. amy says:

    Absolutely Stunning – Karen, aka National Geographic photographer!

  23. Liz says:

    I don’t mean to sound ungrateful, cos this is fascinating reading, but that has definitely grossed me out.

    I like that the pupae is all bling. The flashy B”$*%rd

    • Karen says:

      Are you kidding? I nearly barfed the first time I saw a caterpillar do the chrysalis transformation. It’s totally gross, yet fascinating all at the same time. Like Russell Brand.

  24. Pam'a says:


    National Geographic just called. They’re all humbled and shuffling their feet.

    I never knew the chrysalis was INSIDE the skin. And when I really think about it, the fact that every single monarch butterfly for the past zillion years knows exactly what to do, and when…Well, that’s what I call a miracle.

    From one science girl to another– Awesome job!

  25. Tia says:

    OK. You got me. I am so signing up for your blog. I have to see how this turns out. I mean I know how it turns out, but I love the details. This is fabulous. Thanks.

    I used to live in Monterey, CA, and we wold be surrounded by monarch butterflies all of the time. This is so neat.


  26. Shauna says:

    That’s so great!! You are a patient woman! But now I see why it is soooo worth it. How amazing! Thanks for sitting so still for so many days!

  27. Okay you fascinated & grossed me out all at the same time but I am off to purchase some wittle butterflies for the monkeys now. Anyway possible you could ship me some milkweed…hahahaha JK.

  28. Pati says:

    WOW!! Isn’t that a bloody miracle!!Thanks for the great pictures, can’t wait for the next part now!

    • Karen says:

      You’re welcome Pati! Thanks for thanking me for the pictures. (does that sound weird) You wouldn’t believe how hard it is to capture a creature turning from an egg to a caterpillar to a blob to a butterfly. I had a migraine for a month from looking through the stupid camera lens! LOL.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

The Art of Doing Stuff