Cocoons and Chrysalies, How to tell the difference

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Butterfly, Moth, or Monarch Cocoons, Chrysalis, or Pupa?


Most of us grow up saying 'butterfly cocoon' or 'monarch cocoon'. Actually, although some moths make cocoons, butterflies do not!

Neither butterflies or moths are a 'cocoon'. Some moth species make a cocoon and change into a pupa inside the cocoon. Confusing?

A butterfly and a moth goes through four stages of life; 1) Egg 2) Larva (caterpillar) 3) Pupa (or butterfly chrysalis) 4) Imago (winged adult butterfly or moth) (Although female bagworm moths only have rudimentary wings - which never become large.)

A butterfly pupa is called a pupa or a chrysalis. A moth pupa is called a pupa. Some species of moth caterpillars make a cocoon covering and change into a pupa inside the cocoon. The cocoon is simply a covering, like a sleeping bag. Other species of moths fold over leaves and make their pupa in the leaves. Still other species of moth caterpillars go into the leaves or dirt and make thier pupae in leaf matter or soil.

Butterfly caterpillars sometimes hang in a 'J' or a ')' shape and change into a chrysalis. Other caterpillars fold or sew (with silk) a leaf or several leaves together and change into a chrysalis inside the cocoon or 'nest'.

Caterpillars have spinnerets on their bottom lips. Their silk is a bit different than spider silk. Caterpillar silk shrinks as it dries, pulling leaves and other items tightly together.
Cecropia Moth (Hyalophora cecropia) caterpillar makes its cocoon.
Cecropia moth (Hyalophora cecropia) cocoon
A Hickory Horned Devil (Citheronia regalis) pupa and old skin (Regal Moth)
A Cecropia Caterpillar
Hyalophora cecropia
makes its cocoon.
A Cecropia Moth pupa
is inside its cocoon
found at the base of host trees.
A Regal Moth pupa
Citheronia regalis
is made in the soil
A Polyphemus Moth cocoon (Antheraea polyphemus)
Tersa sphinx moth (Xylophanes tersa) pupa
Bella Moth (Utetheisa ornatrix) pupa in a leaf nest
A Polyphemus Moth
Antheraea polyphemus
cocoon
A Tersa Sphinx Moth pupa
Xylophanes tersa
is made in the soil
Bella Moth Pupa
Utetheisa ornatrix
in a leaf nest.