Rescuing pupae

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  • #50644


    I have about 20 chrysalis hanging on the fence doing nothing should I bring them inside as it’s getting very cold now and if so how do you get them off ? Thanks

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  • #50723


    Yesterday I brought inside a couple of chrysalids which have been outside for weeks, through 2-3 frosts & lots of cold wet weather. Their silk was damp so it was easy to lift the silk free of the wooden framework it was attached to. I wound them on to a stick with cotton thread around the silk & put them on a sunny windowsill, & one hatched today, & it was a beauty which couldn’t wait to take off into the sunshine we have today. So beautiful!
    Having just read some of the posts maybe I should have kept it in a cool place to overwinter?
    It has been a great year for butterflies – I have had about 380 ‘hatchings’ of butterflies.



    Hi If I find a pupae has fallen I will pick it up and get a Cotton Bud and a little pva glue on the tip of a tooth pic and put it on the black part of the pupae and stick it to the cotton bud. then when dry I pin the cotton bud to a old tea towel I have hanging. works well. or I pin it in my Chrysalis Castle. This works too.



    Great discussion and useful tips!

    I also mist the silk and then tease the silk away It lifts off easily. Sometimes I use a toothpick to help.

    I never bother to rehang my pupae as they emerge just fine lying down so long as the emerging butterflies have somewhere that they can immediately climb so that they can extend their wings. This can be as simple as a tea towel hung in an L shape – part of it flat and the other part upright. And lay the pupae at the bottom of the upright piece.



    I have two approaches for ‘cradling’ pupas to be brought into shelter inside:
    (1) for pupas on leaves; and (2) for pupas that have fallen, or are on a hard surface such as a wall, tree, fence, or house etc, i.e without a leaf attached.

    For pupas that need to be removed from a hard surface, I use a blade and scalpel (from my pharmacy) to softly scrape up the silk and gently remove the cremaster from the surface it’s attached to. (Its best to keep the blade upwards & use a small sweeping-across motion, not up and down). I use my free hand to hold the pupa gently, or hold a small container, with cotton wool in it, to catch them if they fall.
    Then I pop the ‘removed’ pupas, along with the fallen pupas, into an icecream container with a soft teatowel in it and bring them inside.

    I cut two strips of Elastoplast Strapping tape, or Leucoplast Strapping Tape, (nothing else is sticky enough so dont bother with Protec tape or sticking plaster). Each strip is about 2cms wide and 3-4cms long.
    I always have a soft fluffy teatowel to work over. I put the tape on the teatowel, secured sticky side up. I carefully place the pupa over the tape and line up the cremaster and the top of the cap of the pupa to get stuck on it. I then stick the other pieve of tape on the front and connect up to the tape on the back. So I attach tape to the top of the front and back of the pupa. This secures the pupa. You have to curve the tape a bit in your hand and not hold it too tightly as the pupa surface is curved not flat – of course!
    CAUTION – Dont put tape on or below the row of the golden crown – nor on or below the equivalent line across the rear of the pupa – or it will die.
    Once you put the Tape on the pupa you cant pull it off again if the pupa is even a little bit soft. So you have to have the tape all lined up before you softly press it down. If you do stick a wee bit of tape where its not wanted just leave it there – and trim off any bits you didnt secure with small sharp craft scissors.

    Then I cut a 5cms length of tape upwards and stick it on the front strip – fold it over- and stick it to the back strip of tape. I trim off any sticky bits. This will enable the pupa to be hung up.
    I fold this long piece of folded tape over a skewer – this holds the pupa in place and enables a natural eclosing.

    I pop them back in the container with the teatowel still in it until Ive prepared a box to hang them in. Usually Ive prepared the box first, so they just wait in line and take their turn!

    I put bamboo skewers acoss a good sized box – eg a photocopy-paper box – or a beer box – and hang the tape with each pupa over the skewers. I secure the sides of the tape with little plaster strips.
    I leave 3 or 4 finger widths between skewers – and between pupas- to enable room for opening wings.
    I will put another fluffy teatowl or handtowel in the base of the box for any who eclose and fall. I make sure the towel is tipped up in each corner so any fallen ones can climb up and dry their wings.
    I cut an access hole in the side of the box so I can change towels or fluff the towel.
    Ive had 100s of safe eclosings this way over the years.
    I will leave the boxes on my sheltereddeck if I have to go out – and Butterflies just climb out and do fly off.

    For pupas om leaves – I cut thin strips of strapping tape – as wide as the leaf – and run one strip along the back of the leaf so it doesnt dry out and break and fall with the pupa.
    Sometimes I may run strips under the leaf as well to secure the leaf- especially if its fragile or has holes eaten through it. I make sure to get each strip close to the cremaster but not touch it.
    If the leaf is too damaged I wil change to the cradle/ Tape method.
    I will extend the leaf with tape folded back on itself if the pupa is hard up against the tip of the leaf – as I need some space to tape each end of the leaf across a double row of skewers.

    I make up a box [as above] for pupas not attached to a leaf. But I now have two skewers per row, not one – as I place the pupa longways between the skewers and then stick each end of the leaf to a skewer with a strip of tape.
    So the box has double skewers 3-4 fingers apart from the next double row. And the double row skewers are one finger width apart. Easy Peasy! I again leave 3 or 4 finger widths between the pupas on leaves.

    Ive also used thumbtacks against an open space so there is room for wings to unfold.
    But some cremasters are too fragile for the pressure – so I changed to the Strapping Tape method as its very reliable.

    Ive found dark fallen pupas and taped them up and put them on a skewer and had them emerge within 5 minutes and hang off the pupa! Such a late-stage pupa is very soft so you have work with delicacy.

    Othwerwise – the majority of pupas are under my eaves or in my large open sided shade house and they take care of themselves while the sun shines and there are no frosts!

    If this isnt clear – please feel free to contact me.



    Thanks so much for that 🙂 I will give it a go as I doubt they will hatch in this weather.



    Great advice. The only further advice I can give is to lightly spray the cremaster before trying to remove it. Do not handle a chrysalis which is soft. I am in Wellington too and have brought in chrysalides for most of our awful season. Many have not resulted in healthy butterflies sadly.



    Hi – not sure where you are, but I’m in Wellington and find my chrysalides take ages (months) to mature in the cool weather. I had some outside that pupated under a veranda roof, from beams and on the house wall. I do bring them inside, particularly if they’re starting to darken. Partly also because I think any emerging butterflies may have a tough time in the wind and cold and there’s a risk of them falling.

    To remove the chrysalis, I use a pair of pointed-end tweezers, and VERY CAREFULLY use those to pull gently from above the cremaster (the black stick that the chrysalis hangs from). Usually if you pull slowly and steadily, the silk will pull away from the structure it’s attached to. (Take care as you could snap the cremaster if you squeeze too hard with tweezers on it.)
    (When I’m doing this, I also hold a container under the chrysalis, to catch it in case it drops).

    If the chrysalis comes away with silk attached, bunch up the silk a bit, then I tie a piece of normal sewing cotton thread around the cremaster (with 2 or 3 knots) and then tie it on to something else. You can also do this if there isn’t much silk, as long as the hook at the top of the cremaster is intact. It’s a bit fiddly to do, but seems to work ok. I’ve also read of people using glue guns to attach cremasters to something else with a blob of glue, but you need to be careful not to get any glue on the chrysalis itself.

    Others on here with more experience may have different advice or options.

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