Wednesday 4th , 2012
print RSS

As it is Caterpillar Adoption season at Kidspace, we get lots of visitors who come through the Nature Exchange excited to see all the stages of the butterfly life cycle.  Often the pupa stage is observed with a gleeful shout of “cocoon.”  It is a common mistake, one made even by the very popular book “The Very Hungry Caterpillar.” 

We get use to sharing with guests that we have Painted Lady butterflies who, like all butterflies, form a chrysalis between their caterpillar and butterfly stages.  If a caterpillar makes a cocoon, it will emerge as a moth.

A cocoon and chrysalis are both pupa stages of insects that go through complete metamorphosis.  While numerous insects make cocoons, only a butterfly can make a chrysalis.  


Cocoon - The silk pouch spun by an insect.  The silk from several types of moth is used to make silk fiber.


Chrysalis - The hard skin of a butterfly’s body beneath the last molting.  Butterfly caterpillars do make silk, first to create a protective nest during early instars and lastly to attach the chrysalis to a twig, leaf or top of its habitat.


272 The Differences between Moths and Butterflies

Butterflies and moths are both insects of the order Lepidoptera, so they have many similarities and can be difficult to tell apart during the egg and larval stages.  The cocoons and chrysalises are the differences at the pupa stage.  When they emerge there are numerous differences.  There are many more varieties of moths than butterflies.  Worldwide there are 142,000 species of moths, of which 12,000 can be found in North America, while there are only 15,000 – 20,000 species of butterfly total.  Moths are mostly active at night, while butterflies prefer daylight hours.  At rest, butterflies fold their wings on their back and moths lay their wings flat.  Moths are dull colored with thick bodies and feathered or pointed antennae.  Butterflies are brightly colored with slender bodies and straight antennae with a small knob at the end. 







Keep Exploring

Chances are while you are exploring your backyard, a garden, or the park some winged Lepidopterae will flutter by and your keen eyes may spot its larval or pupa stage inching along or hanging out. Now that you have some tools to tell if it is a butterfly or moth, maybe you can take a picture or do a scientific drawing and bring it into the Nature Exchange at Kidspace and do a little research to determine which species you have found.






Blog Entry by:

Gerard Gonzales, Nature Exchange Specialist, began at Kidspace in 2009 and enjoys sharing nature with children and watching their sense of wonder blossom.