Caterpillars Have Wings?

Yes, a late instar (older) caterpillar DOES have wings! They’re simply hidden underneath its skin/cuticle.

When a butterfly caterpillar pupates, its wings, antennae, and proboscis are clearly seen. Within the next hour the chrysalis smooths out and hardens. The individual parts of the chrysalis are more difficult to see.

Although much of the maturing butterfly liquefies inside the chrysalis as it changes into an adult butterfly, some parts simply continue to mature. They do not break down into ‘primordial soup’.

Much of the digestive system breaks down and rebuilds itself. An adult butterfly that drinks only liquids does not need as complicated of a digestive system as a caterpillar that eats leaves.

In the photos to the left, the various body parts are labeled.

We encourage everyone to use the terms ‘emerge’ or ‘eclose’ when referring to a butterfly emerging from a chrysalis. A butterfly is not ‘born’ from a chrysalis. This is comparable to calling a human going through puberty being ‘born’. “My son was born last year! Didn’t you notice his voice deepen?” A rough comparison to humans would be to call a caterpillar a child, a chrysalis a young teen, and the winged butterfly an adult human. To consider a caterpillar not a butterfly is to consider a child not a human. The change from caterpillar to adult is, visually, delightfully dramatic for those of us who enjoy raising butterflies.