The marvelous monarch chrysalis


The miracle of metamorphosis is no paltry matter. It involves a delicate flighted creature’s transformation from egg to caterpillar to chrysalis to winged insect.

The chrysalis stage is the third of four required to complete the life cycle of a monarch butterfly. The process begins following mating, when female butterflies lay tiny, ribbed, pale green eggs on the leaves of the common milkweed plant. The eggs hatch into miniscule caterpillars that consume the plant’s leaves as they grow up to two inches in length.

The monarch caterpillar is striped boldly in black, off-white and yellow bands. As the caterpillar feeds and grows, it molts several times, shedding its skin. The final molt results in the enchanting chrysalis, a luminous green chamber graced with points of gold.

As the butterfly forms within the chrysalis, the contours of its body and wings become increasingly apparent. Eventually, the skin of the chrysalis splits and the butterfly emerges to begin circulating fluids through its still-crumpled wings in preparation for flight.

Visit or to view the progression of a monarch butterfly from caterpillar through chrysalis to fully formed butterfly.

TRR photo by Sandy Long
This chrysalis was found hanging from grasses along the Delaware River in Milanville, PA. It contains a monarch butterfly within its gold-studded jade chamber. (Click for larger version)