|The Question: There are six gorgeous monarch caterpillars on a milkweed plant in our front yard. The only problem is, the plant is next to a high traffic public sidewalk. Once the chrysalis is formed, can we move each one to a safer location in our back yard? Does it matter where the butterfly emerges, i.e. does it have to be on milkweed plant?
Submitted by: Mike, Minnesota, USA
The Short Answer: I was delayed in responding to Mike’s question, so this answer is too late to help him, I’m sure, but for the sake of other readers who might wonder the same thing about moving the chrysalis of a monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) or other butterfly, the answer is that you generally can carefully move butterfly chrysalises to another location in your yard or even indoors. As long as you don’t change the temperature of the chrysalises drastically, by, for example, moving them from a shady spot to a sunny one, they should do okay.
Monika Maeckle, who writes for
The Texas Butterfly Ranch Blog offers this advice: “You can simply take a piece of the plant and tape or pin it elsewhere. Stick it in a vase, or figure out some way to keep it upright. What’s important is that the chrysalises are hanging as vertically as possible. When monarchs and other butterflies emerge, they need the assistance of gravity to help them develop properly. Their wings are soft and still forming for about an hour after they eclose and gravity helps them develop fully. Good luck!”
More Information: Monika was inspired by this question to write an article on The Texas Butterfly Ranch Blog about this issue. You can read it at:
I was surprised to learn that Monarch butterflies, which I always thought were limited to North America, turn up all over the world – pretty much anywhere you find the milkweed species on which their caterpillars feed. The 140 or so species of milkweeds (genus Asclepias) themselves are primarily North American species, but there are species native to Africa, and milkweeds have been spread around the world as garden flowers, and have become invasive species in some places. Wherever there are milkweeds, monarchs eventually show up. This may be because they arrive as eggs on transplanted ornamental milkweeds, or it may be that migrating monarchs that get blown off course by storms end up surviving and multiplying where there are already milkweeds. There are now populations of monarchs in South America, New Zealand, Australia and even Hawaii, for example.
What surprises me about this is that Monarchs have a famously elaborate migration pattern in North America (for more info, click here and here). I would think that would make it more difficult for the species to become established on another continent where patterns of climate and geography are completely different. But monarchs in places like Australia have developed new migration patterns there. And usually, as in North America, monarchs in other parts of the globe also congregate in large numbers in specific areas during the winter (click here for more info). The striking coloration, amazing migratory patterns and dramatic concentrations of monarchs in winter have made it one of the most well-known butterflies in the world.