I am always looking for fun and new ways to educate my kids while spending time with them. This spring, we did something that I have never done before: we grew our own butterflies.
I got the idea from my son’s preschool. His teachers purchased caterpillars for their classroom last fall and released them once they turned into butterflies. It was fun to hear Jude come home and talk about how the butterflies were getting bigger and how they were turning into chrysalides, and finally, how they emerged from their chrysalides as butterflies.
After doing some research and reading some reviews, I purchased this kit: Insect Lore Deluxe Butterfly Garden with Live Cup of Caterpillars and Feeding Habitat Kit.
The kit includes:
- 5 baby caterpillars and all the food they’ll need
- Pop-up, reusable 11.5 inch mesh habitat
- Chrysalis station
- Instruction guide
This is everything you’ll need to get started growing your own butterflies.
Receiving your butterfly package
When ordering your kit, make sure that the caterpillars don’t sit outside in the extreme heat; your caterpillars could die if left outside for too long. Also, if the temperatures in your area are not above 55 degrees Fahrenheit, hold off on purchasing your kit until it warms up. The butterflies will not survive their release in temperatures colder than 55 degrees Fahrenheit.
Since my wife and I work away from home during the day, I shipped the package to my office so I wouldn’t have to worry about the weather.
When I got home, Jude and I opened the kit and read through the instructions. We took the cup containing 5 baby caterpillars and placed it on a shelf away from direct sunlight. At first glance, it looked like the caterpillars were dead because there was no movement. After reading the instructions, I learned that they were not dead. This is a normal state for the caterpillars to be in due to the delivery process. After a day of rest and getting used to their new surroundings, the caterpillars became more active.
Over the course of a couple of weeks it was fun to see these tiny little caterpillars grow into big fat caterpillars. It is really hard to imagine that they could grow so big, so fast. The beauty of the kit is that the butterflies have all the food they will need contained within the cup they come in.
Once the caterpillars are fully grown, they crawl their way to the top of the cup and hang from the top of the lid in a “J” shape. At this point, the caterpillars create their chrysalides and begin their transformations into butterflies.
Move the chrysalides to the mesh habitat
Once all the caterpillars have formed their chrysalides, wait 3 days before transferring them from their cup to the mesh habitat that is included in the kit. The kit comes with a Chrysalis Station Log that the container top sits in to keep the lid vertical and prevent the lid from moving. When moving the chrysalides to their mesh habitat, make sure to remove any silk strands surrounding them. This will help ensure that the butterflies will emerge from their chrysalides without any issues.
During this phase of the process, I helped Jude move the chrysalides to the mesh habitat. I wanted to make sure that we didn’t disturb them too much and I wanted to teach him how to gently care for the chrysalides so we wouldn’t harm them. Once we moved the chrysalides, we noticed some wiggled from time to time. This wiggling is a natural defense mechanism they use to scare off potential threats, and this activity can be activated by moving them from the cup to the mesh habitat.
Care and feed for your new butterflies
After about a week, the butterflies emerged from their chrysalides. Once they emerged, I noticed that their wings were crumpled and soft, which is normal. The butterflies slowly stretch and force blood into their veins to strengthen their wings. During this process, I also noticed small red spots on the floor of the mesh habitat. The red liquid is call meconium, which is waste produced by the butterflies while they stretch and harden their wings. These spots can be cleaned by using mild soap and water.
To feed our new butterflies, Jude and I created our own nectar by mixing 3 teaspoons of sugar into 1 cup of water. Once that was mixed, we placed drops of the nectar onto the red mesh butterfly feeder that is also included in the kit.
Releasing your butterflies
It is recommended to release the butterflies three to four days after they have emerged from their chrysalides. This is recommended because the butterflies will start mating and laying eggs if kept in their habit which would become a much larger job to care for all of those caterpillars.
After 4 days, we took the mesh habitat outside to release the butterflies. Jude was excited to say the least. I had to help the butterflies out of the mesh habitat. Once the butterflies were released, Jude wanted to follow them around the yard as they flew away.
It was fun the see the excitement on his face and also fun for Anna and I to experience this process with him. Not even 5 minutes after they were released, he asked when we were going to get more caterpillars. We plan to purchase a second cup of caterpillars this summer.
What summer activities are you planning with your kids? I would love to hear your plans in the comments below.