Friday, July 10, 2009

A Helping Hand for a Fallen Butterfly Chrysalis

Sometimes a pupating caterpillar won't attach itself to it's silk pad. In many cases, it falls and dies. But sometimes it falls and lands softly, still intact but unable to hang. Unless it hangs, it will be deformed and will either die as a chrysalis or will be a deformed butterfly.

The chrysalis on the left hung normally and formed a normal chrysalis. The chrysalis on the right didn't hang normally and is deformed. It will not become a normal adult Monarch butterfly.

When we pick up a freshly pupated chrysalis (which is a caterpillar without its skin), we can handle it gently without harming it. Any roughness will break its soft cuticle and it will start to bleed green blood.

Moving the fresh chrysalis is easy as long as it is handled gently. We can turn the chrysalis over and move it from hand to hand. We find the silk pad it had made for itself and to which it should be attached.

It will flip and twist, instinct telling it that it must attach itself to the silk pad. Because it's future life is hopeless unless it is attached to something immediately, we move it to the silk pad and hold it where its black cremaster will touch the silk pad. When it touches the pad, it will wriggle to work the microscopic hooks into the huge multitude of silk loops that make up its silk pad.

Once it has wriggled a few seconds, we can let go and allow it to hang as if it hadn't fallen. In the next short while, it will slowly reshape into the classic normal Monarch butterfly chrysalis shape. In a few hours, it will harden and be safe to touch and move about if needed. The life of that particular Monarch butterfly has been saved.

Sometimes the chrysalis isn't where it is easy to manipulate or the silk pad is too close to another chrysalis. In that case, we use a cotton ball or other item for it to grasp instead of its silk pad.

It grasps but the hold isn't as strong as if it grasps its own silk pad. The strong silk loops are missing. A loose bit of cotton is a adequate replacement but it is not the ideal item for it to attach itself to ... but better than lying down and becoming deformed.

This brings a wonderful feeling of accomplishment. Without our helping hand, these butterflies would have died.

It makes me think of the helping hands I have had in my life. The first one that comes to mind is Jesus, of course. My thanks start with life itself, moves to salvation (forgiveness), to my husband, family, friends, and even for many strangers!

2 Corinthians 9:15
Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift.

Ephesians 5:20
Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ;

Colossians 3:17
And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.

1 Thessalonians 5:18
In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

Hebrews 13:15
By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name.

(Text taken from


  1. Thank you so much for this article! We have three monarchs in their chrysalis stage and two fell from the top of the container.

    1. I'm glad they helped, Andrea. I'm sorry I didn't see this earlier. Now, three years later, I've seen quite a few comments and questions I missed. Thank you for sharing! ~Edith

  2. Thank u so much for this article. I found a crysalis this morning and ha no idea how to save it.