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How can you tell if a Caterpillar is in a cocoon or dead?

post #1 of 5
Thread Starter 
That pretty much covers my question. We have found a million caterpillars in our yard over the past few days. 3yo DS has kept some in a bug jar in the house, he takes them out for regular walks and play time around the house. He likes to rotate them so they all get a chance. Well during the night some of them have started forming what looks like a cocoon. But I remember from my childhood that when my caterpillars use to die they would form what looked like a cocoon but it turned out they were dead.

I am trying to teach my son that they turn into butterflies, he sorta gets the concept but I would like for him to see this on his own. I think it would be a wonderful learning experience. Especially since he has been so very gentle with the caterpillars. I am truly amazed at how few he has accidently killed. He just loves these little buggers.

So how can I tell if we should throw them out, or put them in a different (safer) jar until they possibly become butterflies or moths?

*cross posted in TAO, not sure of the proper forum lol*
post #2 of 5

When we raised Monarch, Black Swallowtail, and Viceroy butterflies

2 years ago I recall it took 2-3 weeks for them to emerge. If something went wrong and the caterpillar died it would turn to soup. By this I mean eventually it woul split on it's own and you'd see dark red or dark brown like liquid in the bottom of your butterfly habitat. Gross!

I say just give it more time!

When a butterfly was going to emerge it would becomes clear and you could actually see the butterfly all tucked up in there! That's how you knew to keep checking because pretty soon a butterfly would come out!

Sincerely,
Debra, homeschooling mom of 4 ages 10 (AS), 9, 7, and 46 mos (HFA)
post #3 of 5
It also depends on the type of caterpillar. Butterflies make a chrysalis, which is more of a hard shell that forms from their outer skin layer, but moths spin a coccoon of silk-like thread. (I think I have that right, anyway lol) But yes it does take a couple weeks for them to emerge. I think I woud transfer the ones in the "coccoons" and see what happens!
post #4 of 5
Sometimes they stop half changed, and that is a bad sign.

Live ones usually will wiggle too, not a lot but they do squirm still.
post #5 of 5
Do you know what type of caterpillars they are? We've found this site really useful in identifying all sorts of creatures. http://www.whatsthatbug.com/ Once you identify them, you can learn more about their life cycle and what they'll turn into.

We were recently waiting on a tobacco hornworm to emerge as a moth, but we finally realized it had died. We could tell because it no longer squirmed when we touched it.
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Mothering › Mothering Forums › Childhood and Beyond › Education › Learning at Home and Beyond › How can you tell if a Caterpillar is in a cocoon or dead?