Cocoon Vs. Chrysalis – What’s The Difference Between A Chrysalis And A Cocoon

Butterfly Chrysalis On Leaf
(Image credit: leekris)

Gardeners love butterflies, and not just because they are great pollinators. They’re also beautiful and fun to watch. It can also be interesting to learn more about these insects and their life cycles. How much do you know about a cocoon vs. chrysalis and other butterfly facts? These two words are often used interchangeably but are not the same. Enlighten your friends and family with these fun facts.

Are Cocoon and Chrysalis the Same or Different?

Most people understand that a cocoon is the structure a caterpillar weaves around itself and from which it later emerges transformed. But many also assume that the term chrysalis means the same thing. This is not true, and they have very different meanings.

The main difference between a chrysalis and a cocoon is that the former is a life stage, while a cocoon is the actual casing around the caterpillar as it transforms. Chrysalis is the term used to refer to the stage during which the caterpillar transforms into the butterfly. Another word for chrysalis is pupa, although the term chrysalis is only used for butterflies, not moths.

Another common misconception about these terms is that the cocoon is the silk casing a caterpillar spins around itself to pupate into a moth or butterfly. In reality, a cocoon is only used by moth caterpillars. Butterfly larvae spin just a small button of silk and hang from it during the chrysalis stage.

Cocoon and Chrysalis Differences

Cocoon and chrysalis differences are easy to remember once you know what they are. It also helps to know more about the life cycle of butterflies in general:

  • The first stage is an egg that takes between four days and three weeks to hatch.
  • The egg hatches into the larva or caterpillar, which eats and sheds its skin several times as it grows.
  • The full-grown larva then goes through the chrysalis stage, during which it transforms into a butterfly by breaking down and reorganizing its body structures. This takes ten days to two weeks.
  • The last stage is the adult butterfly that we see and enjoy in our gardens.
Mary Ellen Ellis

Mary Ellen Ellis has been gardening for over 20 years. With degrees in Chemistry and Biology, Mary Ellen's specialties are flowers, native plants, and herbs.