Have you ever wondered how to Raise Butterflies from Caterpillars? Watching the emergence of a new butterfly from a cocoon is fascinating for all members of the family. Raising butterflies is a simple project to set up and it will teach your kids a lot about nature. You may want to find your caterpillars in the wild or perhaps you will buy a kit online.
Both approaches are valid and can yield excellent results that are sure to generate excitement. The maintenance requirements are lower than you might imagine, but this process does require a little advanced planning to work. In this article, we will guide you through this amazing and replicable experience.
What Supplies Do I Need to Make a Habitat for The Complete Life Cycle of A Butterfly?
Learning how to raise caterpillars at home starts with the creation of a comfortable habitat for them. Of course, you will want to observe their progress and for this reason, we recommend a smaller aquarium tank or a larger glass jar.
The habitat must have a secure lid, but you need plenty of fresh air and this needs to be more than a few punched holes. The best option is to cover the habitat with a fine mesh or cheesecloth that will allow air to enter and prevent your guests from escaping.
Next, you need to make the habitat comfortable by adding some leaves, sticks, and plants from the plant where you found the caterpillars in nature. Caterpillars need fresh leaves to munch on, and they will need to be changed out daily to keep them happy and healthy.
Important Fact; caterpillars are hydrated from those leaves and no water is needed in the habitat.
The 3 Stages of How to Raise Butterflies from Caterpillars
Stage 1/ Butterfly-Caterpillar Stage
When we’re learning how to raise butterflies from caterpillars, it’s natural to start with this earliest stage. Here you will observe those tiny caterpillars growing into big specimens and if you purchase a Grow your own butterfly kit this can occur in only 5-10 days.
The caterpillar will triple in size, they will crawl around a lot, and they will eat plenty of fresh leaves. You may notice that they start to spin silk and you will see this around the outer surface of the habitat.
It’s normal to see shedding as they grow, and they must be kept out of direct sunlight. If it’s too hot or the condensation levels are high, this will harm the caterpillars.
Stage 2/ Butterfly-Chrysalis Stage
When the caterpillar is large enough, it will climb up to the top of the habitat and attach itself to the mesh lid with strands of silk. They will form a J-shaped cocoon which is when you know that the chrysalis process has truly started. The caterpillar will shed their final thin outer skin layer and it’s extremely important to avoid any disturbances at this time.
Once the chrysalis has been formed, you need to wait at least 24 hours before you carefully move them to the hatching habitat. Lift the entire mesh lid, don’t detach the chrysalises that are hanging there.
Take great care during the transfer and remove any remaining web that may be stuck to the chrysalises. The lid can be rested on an angle on the side of the habitat with the chrysalises hanging down as normal.
If you choose to purchase a grow your own butterfly kit, usually the whole process and all three stages can take place in the mesh terrarium in the kit.
Why do we do this? Well, in nature the chrysalis would get moisture from rainfall, but now that we know how to raise butterflies indoors, we understand that hydration is important. So, we need to spray the habitat and the chrysalises with a fine water mist once each day. Don’t over water at this stage, a little daily mist is all that’s required to keep the chrysalis healthy.
Stage 3/ The Butterflies Emerge from the Chrysalis
A butterfly should emerge from the chrysalis in around 7-10 days, and this is a truly remarkable change. As the emergence draws nearer, you will notice that the chrysalis darkens, and it may even shake as the new butterfly moves around inside. During the emergence, you may notice red liquid that you may think is blood. But this is meconium and what you are observing is the first poop of the new butterflies’ life!
After the butterfly emerges it can’t fly, it needs some quiet time to stretch its wings and force blood into its veins to build essential strength. This takes a few hours, you may notice that wings become unfolded completely, they dry and become harder for flight.
Most people are pretty attached to the butterfly at this point and it’s natural to keep them for a couple of days before they are released.
But the new butterfly is hungry, and you need to stock the habitat with food, such as strawberries, oranges, watermelon, and some drops of sugar water. The butterfly will taste the food through its feet and then draw the nutrients up through its proboscis.
After a couple of days, it’s time to release the butterflies by opening the habitat outdoors and letting them fly away. If they are reluctant, you can gently cup them with your hands, and they should get the hint. Smaller kids need plenty of coaching on how to hold them because they are easily damaged, and this can be upsetting.
Although the kids may be unhappy to say goodbye, you may notice that they tend to remain in the area for several days after they have been released. As a consolation, you can repeat the process again next year and help another batch of butterflies!
Frequently Asked Questions about How to Raise Butterflies from Caterpillars
How long does it take for a caterpillar to turn into a chrysalis?
The caterpillar tends to eat for at least a week before it looks for the ideal location to pupate. At this stage, it will attach itself to the underside of the lid or a branch in the habitat to create the chrysalis.
How long does it take for butterflies to grow from caterpillars?
The caterpillar to butterfly transformation tends to take around three weeks to complete. The lifespan of the butterflies is only 2-4 weeks, and therefore they should be released after 1-2 days to experience their life.
Why is my caterpillar not turning into a chrysalis?
Any exposure to pesticides or other insect growth regulators will be prevented from entering the chrysalis stage. When this happens, they become misshapen, or the chrysalis is never fully formed.
What happens if you help a butterfly out of its cocoon?
This may seem like kindness, but the butterfly will suffer because its wings will be weak and undeveloped which may prevent flying.
Does a chrysalis need to hang?
Yes, the chrysalis needs to hang because if the butterfly emerges from a chrysalis in a horizontal orientation, it may be deformed by the process, and it can even die.
How to Raise Butterflies from Caterpillars in Conclusion
When you see tiny caterpillars in your garden, you have the choice to let nature take its course. Alternatively, you can turn this spectacular three stage transformation into a fantastic learning experience and protect the caterpillar from predators. When you learn how to raise butterflies indoors, you may want to do it every year because it’s fascinating.