Cocoons: How Do They Work?

Hangings from ceilings, trees, and anything caterpillars can get their hands on, cocoons are the symbol of the rebirth of life. A crawling multilegged animal will start the process and a beautiful flying organism will emerge to discover the world. So, the big question is, how do these organisms change so drastically in such a small object?

During a butterflies life, four major stages occur, the egg, larva, pupa, and adult stages. During the egg stage, the developing organisms will begin to grow their first cells, encapsulated by a barrier.

During the larva stage, the organism is commonly known as a caterpillar. It surveys the environment looking for anything and everything to eat. It does this so it can continue its life into the pupa stage.

During the pupa stage, the caterpillar will wrap itself using silk into what is commonly known as a cocoon. The scientific name for cocoon is Chrysalis. Inside of the Chrysalis, a drastic change occurs. The caterpillar will begin to digest itself from the inside out, using the same chemicals used to break down food during the larva stage. Doing this provides a soup of undifferentiated cells that have the potential to turn into whatever they want. The genetic coding of this organism will eventually differentiate these cells into the cells needed to form a Butterfly or Moth in a process called Holometabolism. When the process is fully complete after a few weeks, an amazing flying organism will emerge from the cocoon to go discover the world.