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  The Butterfly Nursery
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The Butterfly Nursery is an emergence chamber which contains butterflies and moths in the pupa stage. The Museum receives shipments of pupae twice weekly from butterfly ranches across the United States. Our Insectary staff carefully unpacks them and places them in this emergence chamber to complete it’s development. This emergence chamber is in full compliance with standard operating procedures approved by the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) and CDFA (California Department of Food and Agriculture) ensuring the protection of local ecosystems.

During the larval stage, caterpillars must shed their exoskeletons to accommodate rapid growth. This shedding is called molting. When the larva is full grown, it molts into the third stage of its life cycle, known as the pupa.

Monarch Caterpillar

Most pupae remain motionless. Others make rapid jerking motions when disturbed. The butterfly pupa is called a chrysalis. It may be camouflaged or very decorative and colorful.

The pupae of most moths are buried in the soil or leaf litter. Some are encased in a protective silk cocoon.

Inside these pupae, big changes are happening. Cells of the larva break down and reorder the living tissue to form an adult moth or butterfly. This pupa stage may last for several weeks or months, depending on the species. Some pupae sense environmental conditions to determine when to emerge.

Monarch Pupae

Once emerged from the pupa, the adult crawls out to find a good place to unfold its wings. It pumps fluid through the wing veins to stretch and strengthen them. The adult will flap its wings up and down to dry them out before flying away to search for food or to find mate.


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