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A green and gold chrysalis of the monarch butterfly, with details visible and water droplets on its surface

The chrysalis (or pupa) of a monarch butterfly is green – the same colour as a swan plant leaf – with a ridge of gold at its top and a series of gold dots at its base. The dots are not really made of gold, of course, but reflect the light in a similar way to gold.

Although the chrysalis does not appear to move, it is not resting. Inside the chrysalis, beneath its skin (cuticle), it is busy. All the remaining body parts it needs to become a butterfly are forming. (Some parts, such as its wings, had already started to form before it pupated – see Pupating in Close-up here [coming soon].)

It takes 10 to 14 days (depending, on the weather) from the time the chrysalis forms to the time the butterfly emerges.

A monarch butterfly chrysalis, attached to a stick, with black and orange wings showing beneath the cuticle (casing) of the chrysalis

The first sign that the butterfly is nearly ready to emerge is that the chrysalis appears to darken. In fact, it is the butterfly inside the chrysalis that is gaining its colours, with black being the most visible. After a day or two, the chrysalis is a brilliant black, with a glimpse of orange.

If you look closely, you can make out the shape and colour of the butterfly’s wings, which, at this stage, are still small.