My caterpillar hasn’t been moving. What’s wrong? Is it dead? Should I move it to another leaf? Put something else in there? HELP! I’m frantic! I’m in a panic!
Okay, it is time to relax! That’s right. Relax. Breathe. Chances are that your caterpillar is ready to molt. Shed its skin and change instars. It is becoming a bigger caterpillar. And, all your worrying is for nothing! In fact, if you ‘bug’ the little guy, it won’t be pleased with all and you might do more damage than good.
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Why is My Caterpillar Rolling Around?
Butterfly larvae go through several instars during their life cycle. Each time, they will molt or shed their skin because they outgrow the skin that they are in.
Why Isn’t My Caterpillar Moving?
When it is time to do this, they often will go to find a nice, quiet place and stop moving, sometimes for around 24 hours or so.
For those who raise monarchs indoors, the perfect spot might be on the top (lid) of the rearing container. For others, like this Gulf Fritillary (Dione vanillae), it might be on a leaf.
During this time, it is best to LEAVE THE CATERPILLAR ALONE!
Repeat, leave the larva alone!
Do not touch it. Do not move it. Do not force it onto a leaf. Do not do anything to the poor thing.
Why Your Caterpillar is Rolling Around
It is getting ready to ‘take off its old clothes and ready itself for the new.’ After the old skin (exuviae) has come off, it is quite an interesting sight!
The larva undulates and the skin moves from head to ‘tail’ and peels off) the new skin is quite moist and takes time to dry and harden. In the meantime, the old skin is often eaten!
So if your little caterpillar doesn’t move for a while, what are you going to do? Leave alone, right? Good! Soon, your little one will be a larger one!
Is My Caterpillar Dead?
Probably not. It takes time for the skin to come off then time for the caterpillar to turn around and go back to eat the skin. If you’re fortunate enough to watch this, it is quite fascinating!
Remember, if the caterpillar is still, it hasn’t moved in some time, then leave it alone!~ Do not touch it. Do not do anything but leave it in peace.
Do Monarch Caterpillars Sleep?
Yes, but monarch caterpillars don’t sleep the same way as humans do. Rather than enjoy a full 8 hours of sleep every night, caterpillars rest for shorter periods. And this state of insect rest is called torpor.
Because they lack eyelids, they sleep with their eyes open.
Keep Reading: Are Bugs and Insects the Same?
How is your butterfly raising going? Have you experienced the shock of your caterpillar not moving? I would love to hear your thoughts and experiences below.
- About the Author
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Dena Haines is a founder and writer at My Monarch Guide. And is working to make it the best resource for raising and enjoying monarch butterflies.
She also blogs about travel at Storyteller.Travel and photography at Storyteller Tech. Dena is a partner at Storyteller Media, a publishing company she runs with her husband, Bryan.