Pupa or Chrysalis


The caterpillars of many butterflies attach themselves by a button of silk to the under surface of a branch or stone, or other projecting surface, and are transformed into chrysalides, which are naked, and which hang perpendicularly from the surface to which they are attached. Other caterpillars attach themselves to surfaces by means of a button of silk which holds the anal extremity of the chrysalis, and have, in addition, a girdle of silk which passes around the middle of the chrysalis, holding it in place very much as a papoose is held on the back of an Indian squaw by a strap passed over her shoulders.

The Form of Chrysalides. —The forms assumed by the insect in this stage of its being vary greatly, though there is a general resemblance among the different families and subfamilies, so that it is easy for one who has studied the matter to tell approximately to what family the form belongs, even when it is not specifically known. Chrysalides are in most cases obscure in coloring, though a few are quite brilliant, and, as in the case of the common milkweed butterfly (Anosia plexippus), ornamented with golden-hued spots. The chrysalides of the Nympbalidce, one of the largest groups of butterflies, are all suspended. The chrysalides of the Papilionida, or swallowtail butterflies, are held in place by girdles, and generally are bifurcate or cleft at the upper end, and are greenish or wood-brown in color.

A study of the structure of all chrysalises’ shows that within them there is contained the immature butterfly. The segments of the body are ensheathed in the corresponding segments of the chrysalis, and soldered over these segments are ensheathing plates of chitinous matter under which are the wings of the butterfly, as well as all the other organs necessary to its existence in the airy realm upon which it enters after emergence from the chrysalis. The practiced eye of the observer is soon able to distinguish the location of the various parts of the butterfly in the chrysalis, and when the time for escape draws near, it is in many cases possible to discern through the thin, yet tough and hard, outer walls of the chrysalis the spots and colors on the wings of the insect.

Duration of Pupal Life. — Many butterflies remain in the chrysalis stage only for a few weeks; others hibernate in this state, and in temperate climates a great many butterflies pass the winter as chrysalides. Where, as is sometimes the case, there are two or three generations or broods of a species during the year, the life of one brood is generally longer than that of the others, because this brood is compelled to overwinter, or hibernate. There are a number of butterflies known in temperate North America which have three broods: a spring brood, emerging from chrysalides which have overwintered; an early summer brood; and a fall brood. The chrysalides in the latter two cases generally represent only a couple of weeks at most in the life of the insect. In tropical and semi-tropical countries many species remain in the chrysalis form during the dry season, and emerge at the beginning of the rains, when vegetation is refreshed and new and tender growths occur in the forests.

The Transformation from the Chrysalis to the Imago.—The perfectly developed insect is known technically as the imago. When the time of maturity in the chrysalis state has been reached, the coverings part in such a way as to allow of the escape of the perfect insect, which, as it comes forth, generally carries with it some suggestion of its caterpillar state in the lengthened abdomen, which it with apparent difficulty trails after it until it secures a hold upon some object from which it may depend while a process of development (which lasts generally a few hours) takes place preparatory to flight. The imago, as it first emerges, is provided with small, flaccid wings, which, together with all the organs of sense, such as the antennae, require for their complete development the injection into them of the vital fluids which, upon first emergence, are largely contained in the cavities of the thorax and abdomen. Hanging pendant on a projecting twig, or clinging to the side of a rock, the insect remains fanning its wings, while by the strong process of circulation a rapid injection of the blood into the wings and other organs takes place, accompanied by their expansion to normal proportions, in which they gradually attain to more or less rigidity. Hardly anything in the range of insect life is more interesting than this rapid development of the butterfly after its first emergence from the chrysalis. The body is robbed of its liquid contents in a large degree; the abdomen is shortened up; the chitinous rings which compose its external skeleton become set and hardened; the wings are expanded, and then the moment arrives when, on airy pinions, the creature that has lived a worm-like life for weeks and months, or which has been apparently sleeping the sleep of death in its cerements, soars aloft in the air, the companion of the sunlight and the breezes.

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