Differences Between Cocoon vs Chrysalis and How They Both Are Helpful for Our Environment

The major difference between cocoon and butterfly can be easily understood by their life cycle. When we talk about Cocoon vs chrysalis the first difference is about their occurrence. Chrysalis is a part of butterfly’s body, and the cocoon is a part of a moth’s body. Chrysalis is the hardened body of the pupa of butterfly and cocoon, on the other hand, is an external structure which is created during larva stage to protect the pupal stage of a moth. Now the questions is, do caterpillars build a cocoon or chrysalis? But the answer is not of one word here. The butterfly caterpillar builds cocoons in rare exceptions, and it is kept in mind that they do not build cocoons. Instead, they harden their body chrysalis during the pupa stage. However, moth builds cocoons, and there is no doubt about it.

Butterfly and Moths

Both of the species belong to the same order named Lepidoptera which has the meaning, “scaled wings.” The scales on the body of butterfly and moth are hairs in actual. There are a large number of species from which butterflies carry just 6 to 11% of total species, and 89 to 94% are carried by moths, which means moths are larger in number than butterflies. Out of a total of 265,000 species, only 20,000 are known to be of butterflies, and all other are moth species, out in the world. Both of the species have a lot of things in common which includes the appearance at a glance is same, their lifecycle is also closely related, and many other things are also similar. But there is no lack of terms when we talk about the differences between these two. From behaviour to body shape, there are many things that are uncommon in the two species. Butterflies have antennae in the shape of the club; they keep it over their back in vertical direction whereas moth antennae are in the shape of the tent. The moth antennae are usually tapered or feathered unlike the antennae of the butterfly. When it comes to behavior, there are also differences; butterflies are diurnal which means they tend to fly in the daytime while both are nocturnal which means they tend to fly mostly in the night time. But as there are exceptions in everything, there are also exceptions in this case as well. Some moths are also present which fly during daytime and thus behave like butterflies if we keep the fact that only butterflies are diurnal. The patterns on the wings of a butterfly are more elaborate and fine and which make them look beautiful and colourful while the scales on the body of moth are usually thick which gives them a furry and fuzzy appearance making their look unattractive in comparison to butterfly. But do you know there are some moths that are more beautiful than butterflies? There are several species of moths that are no less in beauty than a butterfly.

Life stages comparison

*  Cocoon vs chrysalis

Even if there are several differences, the life cycle or stages of growth are similar in both of these insect species. The life cycle is same for both of these till the pupa stage and differences occur only after that. In both cases, the adult female lays eggs on the leaves of any plant. The queen butterfly egg is laid on a special plant. They lay eggs on leaves so that feeding can be made easy and as some of the moth species do not have a mouth they need to eat during the caterpillar stage to store the food for adult stage too. The eggs laid by a female adult if both moth and butterflies hatch into caterpillars with time. The caterpillars grow slowly with time and shed their skin time to time. In their whole lifetime, they usually molt and shed their skin 4-5 times before they completely transform to pupa. Here one myth can also be shredded with the skin of caterpillar that butterflies can't fly if you rub off the powder on their wings. Well, this is completely false, butterfly sheds the skin itself with time, and there is no effect on flying because of that powder on the skin. The final stage of development is pupa, the stage where the actual change begins. The metamorphic process takes place during this time for a couple of days. It takes nearly two weeks to a pupa to transform into an adult butterfly or moth. The cocoon vs chrysalis difference can only be seen at this stage, the metamorphic stage.

*  Chrysalis

The pupa stage of butterfly can be called chrysalis. This is the final stage of being transformed into a butterfly. Before a final molt, a butterfly performs an important task, the butterfly caterpillar spin a silk disk in order to attach itself to a twig part or leaf for safety. As soon as the pupa emerges, the caterpillar sheds its skin for the last time, and the outer covering of the pupa hardens at that time. The outer covering hardens and becomes a protective shell for the butterfly. The covering than takes a colour and molt itself in a specific shape. Do you know why they take a *

*  Cocoon

The whole process is same as like in the case of butter, and the difference between a chrysalis and cocoon only arises at this stage. The moth pupa doesn't harden their outer skin as the butterfly pupa do, and there occurs the safety issue. To protect themselves during this final stage they need a protective shield, and for that, they implement a different way than butterflies do. The moth caterpillars during this time spin silk cocoons around them, i.e., cover themselves with cocoons of silk to make the protective covering before the final molt. And here, in this case, the silk hardens in the form of a protective layer for moths. Chrysalis is thus a part of butterfly body only, and the cocoon is the silk cocoon which hardens as a protective layer. The function of both of these is same that is protecting the butterfly and moth, but only the process of occurrence is different. The silk hardens in a smooth protective covering that keeps the metamorphic process undisturbed, and the pupa is allowed to complete the process even with the covering. Some of the caterpillars of moth make use of silk cocoons only to make the protective covering, but others sometimes use leaves on which they are laying, matter from the plant, and even their own body hairs.

Importance of butterflies for the environment

Now you must have understood How does a chrysalis differ from a cocoon? Now let us understand how these small creatures can be of great importance for us. Apart from being useful, these tiny creatures have made the world colourful with the various colour hues they possess. It can be really eye pleasing to see these creatures develop from their cocoon vs chrysalis state and transform into adult butterflies and moths. We are talking about moths also because moths are not beautiful in comparison to butterflies but there are exceptions, and there are colourful moths as well. Everything about butterflies is just awesome. Their wings, their beautiful prints, their colour, their flight, all seems to be something listed in a fairy book. Apart from being beautiful, there are lot many things that these cute little insects can do. Here are some things that they can do for our environment.

*  Pollination

We all must be aware of the process of pollination which is basically the process of transfer of pollen grains to the female part of the flower that is ovule. Butterflies can be termed as pollen grain carriers which do their job of carrying the pollen grains along with them and transferring it to another flower for the process of fertilization of the flowers. Flowers are just another beauty created by God, and these butterflies are beautiful pollen grain carriers who have the capability of helping the flowers to fertilize and reproduce. These butterflies suck nectar from flowers using their proboscis, and during this process, they also pick up on some pollen grains from the flower on which they were sitting using their tubes and take away those pollen grains along with them. Now the next time these cute insects sit on another flower the roll off those pollen grains inside the new flower and thus contribute to the pollination process of a flower. You might be very surprised to know that about one-third of the food we consume is due to the pollination done by these pretty butterflies. Now you can very well imagine if these butterflies were not there in our environment how much could we have suffered.

*  Help out the plants

We must be knowing that when moths and butterflies are in their caterpillar stage, they turn out to be eating machines and consume a lot of food. They eat up the leaves of the plants on which they reside and can, in turn, help the plants and trees to lose their leaves before the occurrence of the autumn season. It is important to note that these caterpillars have the ability to eat the leaves in a fast process and they use it as a source of energy for their growth; they can also eat flowers and pods for storing energy. In this way, they can keep a check on the environment and rid some environmental wastes. Thus leaves which fall off during autumn are just waste which goes into the garbage bin, but these butterflies help by eating them up so those leaves can be consumed before autumn hence ridding the environment from environmental wastes.

*  Butterflies form a part of the food chain

We must all have studied about the food chain in junior classes, and we must be aware all animals somehow contribute to the food chain for the proper functioning of the environment. The butterflies help us in getting our food by pollinating various flowers and also turn out to be a source of food for other animals such as lizards, spiders, etc. even birds fee on butterflies because they are an easy source of food and easy to prey. The chrysalis vs cocoon stage of moths and butterflies are not eaten up because they are vulnerable and stick to rocks and trees that are not easy to catch. But when they grow up as adults, they fall as prey for many mammals food. Apart from this these butterflies do not have a very long lifespan and thus do not overcrowd our environment with their population.

*  They act as a barometer

Though unbelievable but it is a fact that these butterflies are of great use for the scientists which helps them in predicting the balance and well-functioning of the ecosystem. If there are climatic changes, then it thoroughly affects the butterfly and may result in migration of these insects. Maybe a temperature change, climatic change, rains or any other factor, the impact of such changes can be easily noted down on a butterfly by its migration pattern. The scientists study the butterflies closely to forecast the effects of environmental issues by taking note of a butterfly’s behaviour and population.

*  Are butterflies dangerous?

We have read almost all the positive sides of a butterfly but have you ever wondered if a butterfly can be dangerous? In actuality, butterflies are not harmful but are considered as pests due to the harm that they can cause to crops. These eating machines when in a state of a caterpillar can cause huge losses to the vegetation and thus are considered as pests that no farmers will like to sight on their trees. There are some butterflies such as pipevine and monarch butterflies that are considered as poisonous and have large scaled wings. So one needs to stay at pace form such butterflies which may harm you. Except for few breeds, these butterflies are a lovely species that can add colours to nature and are also an important part of our ecosystem.

How moths are a source of help to our environment

Moths also serve the same utility for our environment as a butterfly does. Here are some benefits of having moths in our environment.

*  Indicators of change

Moths also have the same things to contribute to the environment. They also help the scientists in checking the health of our environment. Moths species are numerous, and they are widespread all around the world in different habitats. Moths also help in indicating any sort of climatic changes and other environmental issues that can be caused due to such changes. Moths are very sensitive and show signs of change in the environment which is helpful for the scientists to monitor our planet needs and introduce new things to control the pattern of change.

*  Pollination

Like butterflies, these moths also contribute in pollinating the flowers and for causing reproduction amongst the flowers. They also use the same process of carrying the pollen grains while they feed on the nectar of flowers and ultimately transfer it to another flower when they sit on another flower to suck the nectar.

*  Food for other mammals

As we have learned about butterflies, these moths also fall prey as food for other mammals and insects such as birds, lizards, spider, etc. Hence they contribute in completing the food chain cycle of our environment.

Interesting facts about moths

Moths are found in huge numbers

The species of moths are just numerous; it is believed that alone USA has a total number of 11,000 species of moth. Even the bird species are not so big in this country in comparison to the moths. The most important thing that the scientist are on the verge of finding more such species and the number may eventually increase within years on the count of moth species

Moths are mimicry artists

Yes, moths are very playful and notorious and have the capability of mimicking and impersonating other animals. Some moths are designed in such a way that they look like wasps, tarantulas, etc. and hence save themselves from falling prey to other animals. Some moths also have the capability of mimicking like bird droppings and thus saving themselves from being eaten up.


We have already studied that moths are pollen grain carriers and they pick up on the pollen grains and transfer it to another flower for the fertilization process to take place.

Some moths do not eat

You must be very surprised to hear this fact as we all know every living thing requires food for survival. But this is a fact that there are few species of moths that do not eat food at all. If we talk about the Luna moth, you might be amazed to know that it doesn’t even have a mouth so in no case it can consume mood by any means. These moths come out of their cocoon and only survive for a period of one or two weeks with a sole aim of mating and laying eggs and contributing to their population and saving their species from facing extinction. There are other moths also apart from these Luna moths that do not consume any food at all.

The female attraction

This is a law of nature that males are attracted towards female irrespective of any species and animals or humans. But it is surprising to know that the male moths can sense their female counterparts even from miles away. Yes, seven miles is the number, the moths can smell the female moths even when they are at such a great distance. They do not have nose still they are expert sniffers to find their female counterparts. They have scent receptors which help them to sense the presence of female moths even form such a long distance of about 11km to be accurate.

Moths serve as food not only for animals but humans too

We have already read that moths serve as a source of food for other insects and mammals and hence contribute to the food chain. But it can be astounding to hear that these moths can also serve as food for humans. Yes, in many African countries, these moths are consumed by humans as well. This is not something in the air, but it’s a perfect study that reveals that about ninety percent of Africans eat butterfly caterpillars and moths in their country. The caterpillar's area source of proteins, minerals, and fats and are thus consumed by humans to fulfill the essential requirements of calcium, iron, proteins, etc.

How are moths harmful?

Moths are also harmful to the humans up to some extent not directly but indirectly. You must be aware of moths that can spoil your clothes. Yes, we are talking about the house clothes moth that can spoil your expensive clothes if they infest your home. They feed on the fabrics of your clothes and make small holes on it thus ruining your robes. Thus it is good to see a moth in the gardens and in the open, but hardly people will like them to sight in their house.

Moths cam also contaminate your food by the faeces particles and cocoons that they carry on their bodies and can cause you serious health hazards and intestinal diseases. So it is better that you keep your house safe from being infested by moths. Some moths can also cause allergies and reactions if they come in contact with your skin.

But it is really difficult to imagine a world without these pretty butterflies and moths. They are not only pretty and pleasant to look at but contribute in their own small ways for the proper functioning of our ecosystem. The butterflies are beautiful and lovable, and it is good to sight these pretty creatures chasing one another and adding on glory to the miracle of nature.

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