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Encyclopedia of Experiments

Insect Puparium Removal: A Method for Pupal Investigation


This article describes a technique to remove an insect’s puparium while keeping the inside pupa intact and therefore fit for further investigation. The example protocol shows the procedure with Drosophila guttifera; however, this technique is applicable to other Drosophila species.


This protocol is an excerpt from Fukutomi et al., Methods for Staging Pupal Periods and Measurement of Wing Pigmentation of Drosophila guttifera, J. Vis. Exp. (2018).

1. Removing puparium

NOTE Pupae of Drosophila are covered by a structure called the puparium. An insect of Muscomorpha (flies) does not shed its larval cuticle at pupation; instead, it hardens the cuticle after apolysis, and uses it as a protective cover of the pupa, the puparium. A pupa residing inside a puparium has a true pupal cuticle, which is very soft and fragile. Before apolysis takes place around P4(ii), epithelia and puparium are attached together, and therefore removing the puparium without damage is very difficult. After P5, removing the puparium is laborious, but useful for morphological observation and definition of pupal stages. The process is carried out as follows.

  1. Affix a piece of double-sided tape on a piece of paper towel.
  2. Place a pupa on the double-sided tape ventral side up (Figure 1A).
  3. Locate the space between the anterior side of the puparium and the internal pupa. Grasp and remove the puparium around this gap using forceps, and expose the anterior side of the head of the pupa.
  4. Insert the tip of a forceps by moving it parallel to the anterior-posterior axis. Lift the tip of the forceps to locally break the puparium. Repeat this action until the breakage reaches the posterior part of the puparium. Ensure that a gap is also formed between the puparium and pupal legs, and break the ventral side of the puparium and minimize the damage to the internal pupa (Figure 1B).
  5. After breaking the puparium as much as possible, take out the pupa using a fine paintbrush (#5/0) (Figure 1C).
  6. Place the pupa on a piece of tissue paper that has been moistened with ddH2O and placed in a plastic Petri dish (diameter 60 mm x height 15 mm). Take photographs as soon as possible because the exposed pupa is vulnerable and easily becomes dry.

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Representative Results

Figure 1
Figure 1. Illustration of removing puparium. (A) Place a pupa ventral side up on a piece of double-sided tape. Remove the anterior part of the puparium. (B) Break the puparium with forceps from the ventral side. (C) After breaking the puparium, take out the pupa using a paintbrush.

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Name Company Catalog Number Comments
Drosophila guttifera The Drosophila Species Stock Center at the U.C. San Diego 15130-1971.10 Drosophila guttifera,  a fruit fly species used in this article
NICETACK double sided tape Nichiban NW-15SF Double sided tape,   for removing puparium
Dumont #5 forceps Fine Science Tools 11252-20 Forceps,  for removing puparium
Van Gogh VISUAL Paint brush Talens Japan GWVR-#5/0 Paint brush,  for removing puparium
Stereomicroscope Olympus SZX16 Stereomicroscope,  for morphological observation
Digital camera Olympus DSE-330-A Digital camera,  for imaging
Falcon standard tissue culture dish Corning 353002 Plastic Petri dish (diameter 60 mm x height 15 mm)


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