How to Raise a Monarch Butterfly

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.

Coming up tomorrow in the final post in the series – the birth of a butterfly. Emerging from the chrysalis and sending it out into the world.  That’s Part V


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  1. Jan in Waterdown says:

    OK! I know I’m a bit late here but I just found a newly formed chrysalis inside the rim of my watering can! A couple weeks ago, I had rescued some tiny milkweed plants with eggs, from the lawn mower, and just stuck them in a glass of water and left it on the deck. A few days later, with very little leaves left, 8 caterpillars of various sizes were transferred to much larger plants in hopes of success. Since then, I haven’t been able to find many of them until today…. woohoo, I’m so stoked!

    • Karen says:

      Ha! Fun hiding spot for it. Watch for it to get dark. Once it turns black it’s ready to hatch within that day. ~ karen!

  2. Dale R Lacina says:

    Having seen the full speed and slow mo videos of this transformation, I would like to compare this event a Monarch goes through to having your hands tied behind your back, you are zipped up in a mummy sleeping bag, you are hung by your feet and you have to shed that sleeping bag upward to your feet. Try that one Mr Houdini!!!! Monarchs are AMAZING!!!

  3. Pat Otto says:

    How about this from Jude Rose…

  4. Genevieve says:

    I thought you were exaggerating in part 3 when you said things were going to get weird, but DANG. Not going to lie. That splitting the skin thing is kind of creeping me out. (I’m a tiny bit glad that the furthest north they have been spotted is 4 hours South of our town… gets me off the hook.)

  5. Leeuna says:

    I am loving these posts. Isn’t nature just fascinating? I would love to do this sometime. I haven’t seen any milkweed in a long time. Maybe I just haven’t been looking for it.

    • Beth says:

      I had no idea how much milkweed we had on our property until I started looking for the monarch eggs…This is all new to me, but I love it. I have quite a few in jars and other glass dishes…waiting for my little butterfly house to arrive, until I have time to build something.

  6. Dave says:

    I did this a few years ago. I found a small caterpillar on some milkweed at the side of the road, put it and some leaves in an empty coffee cup while I drove home. When I arrived, the caterpillar was missing. Gone. It had crawled out of the cup and was hiding somewhere in my car. I continued to leave milkweed leaves in my car and left the windows open so Houdini (yeah, I named him) wouldn’t get too hot.
    I finally found him among the springs and wiring under the passenger seat, and brought him into the house and kept him in a huge pickle jar with a screened top. One day I got home from work and found the chrysalis hanging there, and several days later Houdini emerged as an awesome Monarch.
    Now I have a hankering to do it again.
    FYI, don’t open the jar and let your Monarch out in the house. They’re a bit tricky to get outside. Best to do it outside.

  7. TucsonPatty says:

    I found lots! My favorite of many(!) is this listing:
    Favorite lovely sentences:
    “As in nature, no two will ever be exactly the same. Please allow for the same variations in size you would find in your milkweed patch.”
    “Includes milkweed blossom extender chain.”

    You are most welcome for the rabbit hole down which you will now be following!

  8. TucsonPatty says:

    Too many to tell you about all them, but here are two nice listings. Of course my favorite one was the biggest price! Handmade, and fired 4 times in order to include those beautiful dots of gold decoration that Mother Nature nicely provided. Lovely.
    I found lots of suggestions! My favorite (of many!) is this listing.
    Favorite lovely sentences:
    “As in nature, no two will ever be exactly the same. Please allow for the same variations in size you would find in your milkweed patch.”
    “Includes milkweed blossom extender chain.”

    (You are welcome for the rabbit hole into which you will be going down!)

  9. Cynthia Jones says:

    Am I crazy or did we get this bit in Part 3? I cant really remember which part we were up to, I am pretending I remember.

    Not whingeing.

    Still fascinating stuff and someone should really copy that chrysalis into jade and gold and whack it on an earring.

    • Penny says:

      That’s a great idea! I can’t afford jade or gold, though … maybe I’ll play around with sea glass, dutch metal or gilt beads, and resin … it’s got a look of some of H. R. Giger’s art, creepy but beautiful, don’t you think?

  10. Gayle'' says:

    Will have to check out the milkweed we have in our “meadow.” (Really, it’s the last 45 feet of our lot that has quite a bit of a slope, so we just let nature take its course. We have a whole almost 3/4 acre–that’s the joke, anyway… Cannot wait to “mother” some butterflies!

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