How do I look after chrysalises?

We’ve had an eventful season here with our milkweed plant (I don’t think I’ll do it again), and I think we’re at the end of the season. The pods are all bursting, and I haven’t seen any new catterpillars in a while.

So, I was taking the catterpillars in, and puting them in a little enclosure I had rigged up, to keep them safe from wasps (last year we learned about wasps, this year it was tachinids). Two butterflies that we’ve reared have eclosed, and the last of the cats that we took in have pupated.

Now, when we had those chrysalids, we also had catterpillars to care for, so I was putting in new food, and cleaning out the frass daily. Now we just have the two chrysalises in the enclosure, and I am not sure how to look after just chrysalises. I know they won’t eat, so there’s no reason to have the leaves in there, but I always kept the bottom of the enclosure lined with a wet paper towel, I am wondering if the environment might become too dry without it.

Logically, I wouldn’t think that chrysalises need that much attention, but doing nothing, and just waiting for the butterfly seems like a bad idea.

Hi @MTA-P. Welcome to the forum!

I’d encourage you to read the following article from the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation: Keep Monarchs Wild: Why Captive Rearing Isn’t The Way To Help Monarchs

Arguably, the problem may not be that we have too few monarchs, but rather that the monarchs that are still wild don’t have enough of what they need. They don’t have enough breeding habitat (milkweed and nectar plants); they don’t have enough areas safe from pesticides; they don’t have enough intact overwintering habitat; they don’t have enough protection from severe storms and drought due to climate change; etc.

I know you’ve expressed that you no longer want to plant milkweed, but that is one of the best ways to help the species out. At the very least, I hope you will choose flowering plants native to your area and try to avoid pesticides in your yard/garden.

All that being said, to answer your specific question: it sounds like you are doing the right things to care for the chrysalises you have. You are correct, chrysalises don’t need much attention. Maintaining a slightly humid environment as you described, in addition to regularly monitoring the enclosure, is all you really need to do.

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Be sure that they have enough room to pump up their wings when they eclose. If the sides of the container get in the way, they will never be able to fly.

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Thanks for the advice!

The reason we wouldn’t do it again is because of the tachinids. We have a little apartment here, so the garden is a little patch just outside our ranchslider (we’re making the most of it). So, with the ranchslider open all summer, we’ve been overrun with them. My wife and I are both on the spectrum, and both have sensory sensitivity issues, so when there’s a fly buzzing around, brushing up against you, you just can’t relax.

Then there’s what they do to the catterpillars! Four of the twelve we brought in made it to the chrysalis stage, and seeing one die from a tachinid infestation is really upsetting, especially when you don’t know what you’re looking at.

We’d love to do what we can. We’re wondering if a bee hotel would cause problems for the body corp. And the swan plant has gotten so big that if we took it out, it would make a nice big gap for bee-friendly flowers.

But raising cats brought me so much pleasure. I don’t suppose you know of any way to discorouge tachinids? The best the internet could come up with was to cut the swan plant back, to make it less of a target.

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Two have eclosed already. I made them a sort of an aviary from a mesh shopping bag, and bamboo sticks, and attached it to the top of the container, incase we weren’t around when they eclosed. But they didn’t use it. They were perfectly happy to pump their wings just on the side of the container.