Visitors to the Butterfly Pavilion commonly have questions about the pupae we have on display in our emergence cases. Where do they come from? What do we do with them once they arrive? How often do shipments arrive? We thought it would be informative to take the visitor behind the scenes to show how we prepare butterfly chrysalides for emergence to the beautiful winged adults seen in our exhibit.
We typically receive three shipments of butterfly pupae each week from butterfly farms located in Costa Rica, Ecuador, Malaysia, and Florida. None are wild caught, nor are there any endangered or threatened species included in our exhibit.
The first step once a package of pupae arrives is unpacking and inspection for damage and disease.
Once that is done, the pupae are separated by species, and placed on trays, ready to be pinned to boards.
Pinning to boards must be done carefully, to avoid injury to the living pupa. It is done in one of two ways: if there is a large enough tuft of silk on the cremaster (tip of chrysalis), a pin is simply inserted through the silk and pinned to a board.
If there is no silk, a small drop of hot glue is placed on a square of paper,
and the cremaster is attached.
The pin is then inserted through the paper into the board.
Here is our superstar volunteer Marie in the lab, doing her favorite task – pinning!
This is the finished product, ready to be hung in the emergence case to await the emergence of the adult butterflies.
A behind-the-scenes look by Eric Wenzel, Butterfly Pavilion and Insect Zoo, National Museum of Natural History