How to Find Butterfly Cocoons

Updated November 21, 2016

Butterflies go through an amazing metamorphosis. After mating, the female butterfly lays its eggs on a plant, which is referred to as the host plant. When the caterpillars hatch from the eggs, they eat the host plant for nourishment. While in caterpillar form, it sheds its skin many times. Eventually it uses silken thread to hang itself from a branch. The caterpillar sheds its skin again to form a chrysalis or pupa around itself. Depending on the type of butterfly, the caterpillar can remain in the chrysalis for days, months or years before it emerges as a butterfly. Learn how to find butterfly cocoons using these steps.

Look at different pictures of butterfly cocoons and become familiar with them. For example, a Monarch butterfly's chrysalis is green, and a giant swallow tail has a brownish cocoon. However, the shapes of the cocoons are similar.

Examine trees and bushes in your yard for butterfly eggs. A magnifying glass will help. Monarch butterflies lay their eggs on milkweed leaves. The eggs are small and circular. If you find some, monitor them and watch them hatch. At least you will have an idea of when to look for the cocoons.

Use binoculars and go outside during the day when the sky is clear and the sun is bright to search for butterfly cocoons. The chrysalis will blend in with the branches and leaves, so you have to look closely. If the chrysalis wasn't camouflaged, it would get eaten by predators.

Keep in mind the general shape of the cocoon. Sometimes you will find a row of them hanging from a branch or leaf.

If you have trouble finding them in your own yard, visit a park, butterfly sanctuary or a zoo that houses butterflies.


If you have children, have them help you find butterfly cocoons. It can be a fun weekend activity.


Don't touch or remove the chrysalis from the tree or plant. You could interfere with the butterfly's metamorphosis.

Things You'll Need

  • Binoculars
  • Magnifying glass
  • Book on butterflies
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