Cocoon vs chrysalis (author Eric Carle)

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  • #14859


    When speaking to teachers I often find raised eyebrows when I explain that butterflies’ larvae do not make cocoons. The teachersrefer to Eric Carle’s book, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, where he refers to a ‘cocoon’.

    When questioned, Eric replied: “In most cases a butterfly does come from a chrysalis, but not all. There’s a rare genus called Parnassian, that pupates in a cocoon. These butterflies live in the Pacific Northwest, in Siberia, and as far away as North Korea and the northern islands of Japan.

    “And here?s my unscientific explanation: My caterpillar is very unusual. As you know caterpillars don’t eat lollipops and ice cream, so you won’t find my caterpillar in any field guides. But also, when I was a small boy, my father would say, ‘Eric, come out of your cocoon.’ He meant I should open up and be receptive to the world around me. For me, it would not sound right to say, .’Come out of your chrysalis.’ And so poetry won over science!

    PS Actually, the Parnassians pupate inside cocoon-like webs usually constructed among leaves or in rubbish piles.

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  • #27520


    Most Lepidoptera references describe a ‘cocoon’ as a pupal casing made by a moth or other insect larvae, using silk or similar fibrous material. This is a different procedure than a butterfly larva shedding its skin and transforming into the pupa or chrysalis. Pupa is the term used for the third stage of the insects cycle, whether it be a chrysalis or cocoon.
    The Gum Emporer moth is a typical example of a cocoon, as are silkworms.

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