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What Does it Mean When a Butterfly's Cocoon Turns Black?

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A caterpillar that metamorphoses into a butterfly creates a chrysalis. A chrysalis usually has a tapered shape and may blend in with the butterfly's habitat. Chrysalis color varies depending on the butterfly species. Moth caterpillars spin cocoons. These casings protects the caterpillar as it transforms into its adult form. The chrysalis darkens or becomes transparent shortly before the butterfly emerges.

The Butterfly's Pupa Stage

When the caterpillar is in his chrysalis he's called a pupa. In this stage the caterpillar digests his own body to create his butterfly form. Although the pupa doesn't need food in this stage, he does need moisture. If you're caring for a chrysalis, mist the cage to keep the pupa healthy. When the chrysalis turns dark or clear, the butterfly's about to come out of the chrysalis. The timing varies by species. Monarch butterflies generally leave the chrysalis within 48 hours once it turns dark, according to the University of Kansas Monarch Watch website.

Dead Pupae

Pupae may die instead of completing the transformation into butterflies. A black or very dark chrysalis could indicate that the pupa died. If you gently bend the chrysalis at the abdomen and it remains bent, the pupa's probably dead, according to the Missouri Botanical Gardens Butterfly School website. This sometimes happens even if you do everything right in caring for the pupa.