Can Butterflies Get Stuck in Their Cocoons?

Butterflies form a chrysalis or cocoon in their third life stage, also known as pupa. People often wonder how they get stuck in their chrysalis, especially the person rearing them. Moreover, the time in their chrysalis varies with species and environmental conditions.

Can Butterflies Get Stuck in Their Cocoons? Butterflies can get stuck in their cocoon due to less space in the surroundings, dry weather or dehydration, weakness, diseases or infections, and genetic problems or deformities. They release hormones to soften the chrysalis and activate the nervous system to start movements to remove the outer hard covering. It means it is stuck in the chrysalis if it has tried to come out for 15-20 minutes but could not make it. You can use tweezers or gentle techniques to help them.

The caterpillar eats a lot in its developing stage and gathers nutrients for the next phase of the metamorphosis. They stay one to four weeks in chrysalis according to the environmental conditions.

However, some species do not emerge from cocoons for more than two years. They face many challenges during their growth period and struggle to escape the chrysalis.

Why do butterflies get stuck in their cocoons?

It is not common for butterflies to get stuck in their cocoons because they know how to emerge safely and expand their wings to take flight.

Less space in the surroundings

Butterflies need an appropriate amount of space in their surroundings when they hang from the cocoon with the caterpillar inside to grow into an adult insect.

They face problems hatching and coming out from hard outer covering when developing fully if the area around them is congested or does not have enough space for the adult butterfly to expand its wings and legs after emergence.

Once, I saw a butterfly emerging from its cocoon in a flower garden near my house. It struggled to escape the chrysalis but could not easily stretch its wings and legs due to the close tree branches and overgrown extended shrubs.

However, it became successful after trying for an hour and throwing the outer cocoon layer to hang freely from the branch.

Dry weather or dehydration

The abrupt weather changes around the pupa can lead to some problems and cause the adult butterfly to get stuck in the chrysalis.

For example, my friend has many caterpillars and releases adult flying insects when they emerge from the chrysalis.

Once, he told me that he experienced a rare incident where the butterfly got stuck in the cocoon due to dryness and dehydration.

He said the inappropriate conditions in captivity can lead to low humidity levels, as a central heating system in the place where these insects are growing.

Moreover, he explained that the dry weather in the wild also causes moisture reduction inside the cocoon and the over-hardening of the chrysalis.

The pupa cannot break the hard casing and get stuck in it, which sometimes causes predation or the death of the newly emerging insect.


The weak butterfly cannot break the chrysalis and get stuck inside it when trying to come out of it after completing the metamorphosis.

The health and growth of the species depend on the food that the caterpillar eats in the larval stage because the pupa does not eat anything during the chrysalis phase.

Moreover, I studied their development inside the cocoon and learned many interesting facts about these colorful flying creatures.

I read in a research article that the nutrients stored in the caterpillar body are used as protein soup and help the pupa to arrange the imaginal discs.

The inadequate food availability during the caterpillar stage causes weaknesses in the pupa, and they cannot get out of the cocoon because they need energy to remove the outer covering.

Diseases or infections

They can get diseases or parasitic infections from the trees they are hanging and other small insects. For example, monarch caterpillars can get the OE protozoan parasite from the milkweed plants and cannot grow inside the chrysalis.

Moreover, my uncle often visits and explores the woodlands and grasslands to observe the caterpillars and collect the sample species for study in the lab, as he has a license from the entomology department and worked in a laboratory.

He told me that these parasitic protozoans are single-cell organisms and replicate inside the host after getting inside their bodies.

Therefore, the pupa face problems in the cocoons and sometimes get stuck because they do not have enough strength and energy to break the chrysalis and come out.

Genetic problems or deformities

Various genetic factors are involved in the butterfly formation inside the chrysalis or cocoon. The variation in genes and genetic problems can cause deformities in adult insects, and they can get stuck when trying to come out and take flight.

The deformed legs, wings, and antennas cause them to face challenges while coming out of the chrysalis, and sometimes they cannot shed the cocoon.

Therefore, provide suitable conditions for the pupa to arrange the imaginal discs and genes to perfectly structure the body and organs.

How does a butterfly get out of its cocoon?

The process of a butterfly to shed the cocoon or chrysalis and get out of it is known as eclosion. Various hormones are involved in the caterpillar and pupa stages, and these hormones also control the eclosion.

My cousin has vast knowledge about the metamorphosis of butterflies and moths and told me that the hormones inside the pupa release when it is ready to emerge.

These hormones cause the chrysalis to soften and activate the central nervous system to start movements. Some species have transparent chrysalis, and some have dark-colored ones around their bodies.

You can look at the legs, crumpled wings, and antennas through the transparent chrysalis. The butterfly starts slight movements and removes the covering from its eyes and proboscis.

It will then start crawling and break the cocoon. The newly emerged butterfly hangs upside down to pump the fluid in the wings and expand the crumpled wings. It can take flights after a few hours and start foraging and mating.

How do you know if the butterfly is stuck in its chrysalis?

The butterfly struggles to get out of their chrysalis after completing the development or growth. However, it can get stuck in the chrysalis if it remains inside the cocoon for 15-25 minutes trying to remove the hard casing.

It shows that the new emerging insect is trapped or stuck in the chrysalis and needs help. However, it is better to wait for 15 minutes before helping them.

Once, I saw a butterfly in a chrysalis with its head and eyes out and abdomen inside it covering. It tried for 30 minutes but could not escape and remove it.

However, I learned that you should not touch the chrysalis and open it because the liquid or soup can drop out and cause the pupa to die.

What to do if the butterfly is stuck in the cocoon?

Firstly, you should not try to remove the chrysalis if you do not have the knowledge or experience to deal with such situations.

It is better to use the tweezers to remove the cocoon or make a small hole in the chrysalis to help the butterfly come out if it is stuck.

Make a bigger hole without damaging its body organs so it can move its body parts and push against the chrysalis to remove it.

This struggle is necessary for the strength and power of the butterflies because it helps them expand or contract their body muscles and allow agile movements in the future.

Do not detach it from the hanging point because it will position itself upside down to open the wings. Moreover, my friend told me that the sharp tweezers can cause cuts on the wings and abdomen, therefore, help them with a gentle approach without harming them.

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