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August 12, 2010

Exoskeleton: Painted Lady Butterflies

Karen's comment in my last post regarding our Painted Lady Butterflies (Forming the Chrysalis) had me do some more digging! We hadn't really seen any "green" waste in our jar. I'm sure there is some, but that wasn't what stood out for us. We seen a lot of what looked like black fuzzy balls, sometimes very big balls.

Up until a few moments ago we just assumed the black stuff was 'waste' and that perhaps it was fuzzy to confused predators etc. It was black not green, but at the same time I thought perhaps it was a dark green almost black, and if the lighting was a a little better we would see it was green. The material that came with our painted lady butterflies NEVER said anything about them shedding their skin.

Well Karen my digging found this information again from Earth's Birthday Project:
What is that black thing hanging on the bottom of the chrysalis? Is it the caterpillar’s head? Nope, it’s the caterpillar’s last exoskeleton, crumpled into a ball and stuck to the chrysalis. Painted lady caterpillars molt—shed their exoskeletons—five times, the last time just before they pupate. Often the exoskeleton doesn’t fall completely away from the pupating caterpillar but gets stuck on the outside of the chrysalis as it hardens.
So that "fuzzy" black caterpillar looking stuff we've been seeing has not been "waste" as we thought! It was the shed exoskeleton! I wished the material from insect lore shared that as well! That would have been extremely helpful and beneficial! Clearly insect lore delivered on the caterpillars and they are doing great. They do guarantee that at least 3 of them will make it to adulthood. I just wish the material they give with them shared more information like the fact they shed their exoskeletons.


  1. Well why doesn't Insect Lore just tell us that the "Frass" is their exoskeleton in the first place? We sat around for a couple weeks trying to figure out how such small caterpillars could excrete such large fuzzy waste.


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