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Molting Monarch Caterpillars
Molting, Instars, and More
first instar Monarch caterpillar
Monarch caterpillar molt
Monarch caterpillar molt
Monarch caterpillar molt
Monarch caterpillar molt
Monarch caterpillar eats its old skin after it molted
Monarch caterpillar molts
Monarch caterpillar molts
Monarch caterpillar molts and climbs out of its old skin
Monarch caterpillar molted - its head capsule
Monarch caterpillar molts
Monarch caterpillar molts
Monarch caterpillar moltd and now removes its head capsule with its feet
(Click on photos above to see a larger photo.)

Caterpillar skin never grows as our skin does.
A caterpillar has to crawl out of its skin, or molt, when its skin becomes too tight.
This process is called molting. The time period between molting is called an instar.

The caterpillar draws its head out of its head capsule before molting.
Sometimes the caterpillar will use its front feet to help
remove the head capsule from its head (last photo).
Look for the photo which shows the head capsule
laying in front of the caterpillar after it has molted.

After molting, the caterpillar will allow time for its new skin to dry
before turning around and eating its old skin.

Actual size of caterpillars when they molt will vary
according to the amount of food it has eaten during its life.


If you need to pick up or move a caterpillar,
watch first to see if it is moving its rear legs (back prolegs).
The caterpillar lays a mat of silk and attaches its prolegs to the silk.
After about a day, the caterpillar simply walks out of its skin.
If the caterpillar is moved while it is attached to the silk
and the silk breaks loose to the object to which it is attached,
it will usually not be able to leave its old skin and will die.