Spend a moment in our Butterfly Rainforest with Ryan talking about pupa—the stage where caterpillars transform into butterflies and months. Did you know that only moths make cocoons? And some moths don’t even do that!

A butterfly caterpillar will become a chrysalis, which is just the insect with a hard exterior. They do not build cocoons of silk and plant matter. Instead they take on colors and shapes that camouflage them in their surroundings. You can see chrysalis and cocoons in our Rearing Lab when you visit.


Hello, welcome to the Butterfly Rainforest at the Florida Museum of Natural History. My name is Ryan and today we’ll actually be talking a little bit more about moths then just butterflies. Specifically I want to talk about the misconception of the butterfly cocoon.

There is no such thing as a butterfly cocoon. A cocoon is an extra layer of silk and that leaves that a moth will weave around itself before it pupate. This is a moth pupa, the Atlas moth, and it will rest inside of the cocoon. Kind of like a sleeping bag. Just like that.

Butterfly pupa by contrast, also called a chrysalis, does not have a cocoon. It does not sit inside a cocoon which is made up of silk and leaves. The  butterfly pupae is basically naked as it were, which is why a lot of butterfly pupae tend to look like things blending into their environment like this pipevine swollowtail pupa. Some of them will be green like leaves, some will have a shiny metallic exterior or just have little dots of gold on them like a monarch pupa. There is no such thing as a butterfly cocoon, just a butterfly pupa or a chrysalis.

Just to complicate matters a little bit more, there are many moth pupa that do not make cocoons either. This moth pupa is found in the dirt. Many many species of moths will as Kepler’s, burrow into the dirt and pupa instead of taking the time never to make a moth cocoon.

We will keep them all hanging for you to see at the Butterfly Rainforest, so we hope you come on out and take a look and enjoy them. Have a great rest of the day. Thank you very much.

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Video by Ryan Fessenden; Produced by Radha Krueger