50 Places to Find a Monarch Chrysalis + Helpful Ideas to give Caterpillars more Places to Pupate
One of the great mysteries of the butterfly garden is “Where in the heck do those clown-striped caterpillars crawl off to to form their monarch chrysalis?”
Sadly, the answer to this question is that most of them don’t. Although the cardenolides in milkweed are toxic, they’re not toxic enough to stop a growing list of predators from devouring monarchs in all stages of life…in particular, monarch eggs and caterpillars!
The estimates I hear most often (from a wide variety of sources) are between 1-10% survive when left outdoors to fend for themselves. Based on what I’ve seen and heard from other butterfly gardeners, I’d say a 5% survival rate is closer to the max.
The monarchs’ saving grace is that the females lay over 400 eggs and that many butterfly enthusiasts collect eggs/caterpillars to raise indoors, where a good raising system can boost their survival rate upwards of 90%!
But this isn’t a raising post…it’s about how you can boost the survival rate of the outdoor caterpillars in your garden that are truly struggling to survive…
This is a collection of ideas I received from the monarch enthusiasts who receive my free butterfly garden tips newsletter. I asked them to share where they find monarch chrysalises in their yards and also what props they place in and around their gardens to give caterpillars more options to hang their weary hinds…
50 Places to look for a Monarch Chrysalis
1. Potted Plants
Monarch caterpillars often use the protective lip of the planter to transform to the next stage of metamorphosis. Unfortunately, our first garden chrysalis of all-time did not look healthy so I had to remove it…still encouraged to finally find one! Monarch Chrysalis Problems Info
2. Under Hanging Pots
3. Climbing Vines
Vine ideas include mandevilla vine and passion vine, morning glory, roses
4. Lip on the bottom of a house
Keep in mind, leave caterpillars to hang on milkweed can be dangerous if there are other munching monarchs in the vicinity!
7. Garden plants: hibiscus, salvia, lavender, NE Aster, Coneflowers, Mexican sunflowers, Bluestem, Nandina domestica, allium, tomatoes, day lily, red hot poker, turk’s cap, Rusty Blackhaw, Viburnum, Jamaican croton-plant, joe pye weed, fennel, dill, hydrangea leaf, lantana, fig bush, porterweed, sunflower leaves, bird of paradise leaf, crepe myrtle, beauty-berry bush, rhubarb leaves and stalks, lilacs, butterfly bushes
I’m sure many other garden plants could provide a chrysalis shelter too…think broad, thick leaves and strong stems!
8. Bamboo poles leaning against fence
under picnic tables, chair arm rests, slats under chairs, etc…
10. Garden Statues
11. Eaves of House
Many in the community reported finding hidden monarch treasure under the eaves of their houses. Whenever looking for chrysalises, remember to look up too!
12. Window Screen
13. Gate Hinges
14. Stucco Wall
15. 2 x 4 Piece of Wood
16. Underhang of a Window Well
17. House Siding
This idea was given by several people in the community who have found chrysalises close to home. Recently, we discovered the first caterpillar/chrysalis forming a chrysalis on our house:
18. Fence Slats- underneath
19. Window Sills
20. Hurricane fence
for those on the gulf and east coasts!
22. Window Frame/ Door Frame
Protect your precious garden plants from those pesky pets and curious critters while giving monarchs a place to hang out!
One community member reported seeing dozens of Monarch chrysalides hanging like little Christmas ornaments from between the fence wire spaces.
24. Bird Baths
25. Garden Arbors
26. Garden Trellises
27. Storage Sheds
28. Sides of Trees
The only chrysalis I ever recall seeing outdoors as a child was attached at the base of a large tree.
30. Landscape Timber Garden Border
31. Plant Saucer
For those times when they don’t feel like crawling up the pot!
Be sure your garden art is secured so it won’t blow over in a storm.
33. Water Spout
34. Bottomless Birdhouses
Community member Fred builds these specifically for caterpillars and calls them chrysalis houses. It sounds like a unique idea, but I would check regularly to make sure wasps don’t make it their nesting place!
35. Doorway Arch
36. Barbecue Grills
37. Wooden Bench
Community member Pauline G says during the summer the bench is surrounded by foliage and flowers, giving caterpillars plenty of options to hide their chrysalis.
38. Tree Branches
39. Concrete Column in Garden
40. A small structure next to milkweed and nectar plants made of a 1″ x 2″ wood frame or box
On the one side of the box is a stapled aluminum window screen attached to the frame. Caterpillars will climb up, attach and morph into a chrysalis on the screen.
41. Stick short, forked branches in soil around plants
A simple idea that could be effective!
42. Hanging down from the top of the inset around the windows
43. Window Air Conditioner
44. Palm Frond
…The large fan-like leaf of a palm tree
45. Wedding Veil Tulle (used to cover plants)
47. Vents Attached to House
48. Niches in Stacked Field Stone
49. Electric Meter
50. Wood fence with horizontal 2x4s in the center
51. Weedy brush
Before you toss it in the yard waste, make sure it’s chrysalis-free!
52. Tomato Cages
Stretch pantyhose over the top to give caterpillars additional room to pupate + more protection from elements. We placed these under an overhang by our swamp milkweed that doesn’t get direct rain. So excited to find a caterpillar on one the first week, but unfortunately it had been parasitized by tachinid flies.
53. Wooden Paint Sticks or Popsicle Sticks
Stuck in the ground at an angle or place on top of containers
Note: A few people reported being surprise that some caterpillars will travel 15 or 20 feet away from the milkweed patch to pupate, trying to find that perfect place to take it to the next level!