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Butterflies (Papilionoidea) Moths (Heterocera)

What is the Difference Between a Cocoon and a Chrysalis?

The terms “cocoon” and “chrysalis” are often used interchangeably, but they actually refer to different structures in the life cycle of certain insects, such as butterflies and moths. Here’s the difference between the two:


A cocoon is a protective covering spun by moth larvae, known as caterpillars, to enclose themselves during the pupal stage of their life cycle. The cocoon is typically made of silk, which is produced by specialized glands in the caterpillar’s mouth. Inside the cocoon, the caterpillar undergoes metamorphosis and transforms into an adult moth. The cocoon is usually brown or tan in color and has a papery or fibrous texture.

Moth cocoon


A chrysalis, on the other hand, is the pupal stage of butterflies. It is the protective casing that forms around the caterpillar as it transforms into an adult butterfly. Unlike a cocoon, a chrysalis does not consist of silk spun by the caterpillar. Instead, it is formed directly from the caterpillar’s body. The outer surface of a chrysalis is often smooth and hard, providing protection for the developing butterfly inside. The color of a chrysalis can vary depending on the species, but it is generally green or brown to blend in with the surroundings.

Butterfly chrysalis

To summarize, a cocoon is a silk casing spun by moth caterpillars, while a chrysalis is the hardened casing formed by butterfly caterpillars. The distinction between the two mainly lies in the method of construction and the type of insect undergoing metamorphosis.

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