Yes, caterpillars do die when they’re in their cocoons. They don’t magically transform into a butterfly while they’re inside the cocoon. Rather, once the caterpillar’s old body dies, its body disintegrates, and inside a protective shell, a new body begins to form.
A caterpillar’s life cycle is divided into four stages: egg, larva (caterpillar), pupa (cocoon), and adult (butterfly). Once it enters the pupa stage, the caterpillar spins a silk pad on a branch or leaf (its final meal before the big transformation). Then it sheds its skin and hangs upside down in what looks like a J shape. The caterpillar then molts again and forms a hard outer shell called a chrysalis. Inside this chrysalis, the caterpillar begins to break down and change into an adult butterfly.
The process is called metamorphosis. It can take from 10 to 15 days for the transformation to be complete. Once it emerges as an adult butterfly, it will feed on flower nectar and mate with other butterflies of the same species.
What happens to a caterpillar inside a cocoon?
After a caterpillar has spent some time eating and growing to its full size, it weaves a cocoon or molts into a chrysalis. Inside its case, the caterpillar makes a complete metamorphosis, changing its form until finally coming out as a beautiful butterfly or moth.
Before it emerges from its protective covering, however, the caterpillar undergoes an amazing transformation. In fact, it turns into an entirely different creature. Its body literally breaks down into a gooey liquid and then reforms itself into the body of an adult insect. The process is so amazing that scientists have only recently been able to understand how it works.
The first step in this transformation is the formation of a pupa inside the cocoon or chrysalis. A pupa is not fully formed but does have the basic shape of an adult butterfly or moth. All of the major body parts of an adult insect are present, although they may not be fully developed. It is at this point that the caterpillar’s old body parts break down into liquid and then form new structures inside the pupa to form an adult insect. At first glance, the pupa looks like nothing more than a soft blob with legs and wings sticking out of it!
Is caterpillar metamorphosis painful?
Contrary to popular belief, there are no nerve endings inside a butterfly’s chrysalis, making it insensitive to touch and other kinds of sensation(pain). Though butterflies do feel the presence of pressure, their perception of this is unlike what we experience. They also don’t respond to hot and cold temperatures the way we do.
Do caterpillars shrink before they cocoon?
Prior to entering the pupa stage, caterpillars change color and become smaller. They are not shrinking per se but are instead transforming their bodies into a different form. A caterpillar’s body is made up of many segments that function independently, so when it shrinks, it is simply changing the size of these separate parts.
The caterpillar’s body shrinks prior to transformation because the soft tissue in its body dissolves and is absorbed as food for the growing butterfly inside. This soft tissue then forms into organs and tissues like those found in a butterfly inside the chrysalis or cocoon. The caterpillar’s head also shrinks at this time, and its tiny eyes turn into a brain.
Many people are under the impression that cocoons are just the next stage of a caterpillar’s life. Although this is true, it’s important to note that the caterpillar dies once it enters the cocoon and its body begins to break down into its next form. Although this transformation can take several days or up to several weeks, once a butterfly emerges from the cocoon, its wings will be completely formed and ready for flying.