Congratulations, you and your students are about to watch part of the incredible life cycle of the Painted Lady Butterfly! Expect the change from caterpillar to butterfly to take approximately 3 weeks and for the resulting butterflies to live 2 to 4 weeks.
Your School Kit Contains
* Covered Cups with caterpillars
* Cup filled with concentrated caterpillar food and spoon
* 30 small cups and lids
* 30 squares of filter paper and a transfer brush
* Hanging Butterfly Habitat, which can be reused
* Mister, 4 packets of sugar, Eye Dropper
* Butterfly feeder with cotton wick
* Life Cycle Coloring page you can copy to further help the children understand the process.
You will need to Provide
Tape, permanent marker, water and a small bowl to mix and store the sugar solution.
Transferring the Caterpillars
Step 1: Place your caterpillar cups in a refrigerator (not a freezer) for 20-30 minutes. This will slow the caterpillars down so they are easier to transfer.
While the caterpillars are cooling:
Step 2: Scoop ½ spoon of food into each of the 30 small cups. You will have extra food.
Step 3: Using the bottom of a small cup, firmly press the food into the bottom of each small cup. Each cup should end up with approximately ¼ ” of food in it.
Step 4: Using the permanent marker, write each child’s name on a small cup.
Transfering: Step 5: Use the transfer brush to gently pick up a caterpillar one at a time and transfer each into a small cup. Replace the lid on the large cup to keep the remaining caterpillars from crawling out.
Step 6: Place a square of filter paper over the top of each small cup and then snap on its lid. They DO have enough air in their individual cups.
Step 7: Move any extra caterpillars into the large cup with the remaining food and cover it using the lid from the cup the caterpillars came in.
Caring for the Caterpillars
Your caterpillars only need the food on the bottom of their Cup to thrive and grow. In the wild they like mallow and hollyhock plants, but our special concentrated diet is great for them. Now watch as they eat, crawl, spin silk and grow to many times their original size! Don’t worry if they do not move for the first day or so, this is normal. While they are eating and growing you will see little balls on the bottom of the Cup that are the caterpillars “frass” or waste. It should be left in the Cup. While the caterpillars are in the Cup children may gently pick up the Cup to look at them but do not shake it or be rough with them.
Important: Keep your caterpillar Cups at room temperature (68° to 78°F) and out of direct sunlight. Direct sunlight may cause condensation in the Cups, which is not healthy for the caterpillars. Also, keep the lid on the Cups at all times to prevent introducing bacteria into the Cups.
Changing from Caterpillar to Chrysalis
At normal room temperature the caterpillars should take 5 to 10 days to grow large enough to make the fascinating change from caterpillar to chrysalis. When they are ready to change the caterpillars will climb to the top of the Cup and attach themselves, by strands of silk, to the filter paper that is under the lid of the cup. They will hang upside down from the paper and make a “J” shape.
Their body will change into a chrysalis and they will shed a very thin layer of outer skin that you may not even see. During the first day while their chrysalis is forming it is very important that they are not disturbed and you must be very careful not to move or jiggle the Cup. This is the most vulnerable stage in the development of a butterfly.
Caring for the Chrysalides
24 hours after all of the caterpillars have formed chrysalides is the best time to move them into the Hanging Habitat. Hang your habitat, using the c-shape screw hook we provided if needed. Add water to the butterfly feeder (no sugar) and place in the center of the floor of the habitat. This will help remove wrinkles from the netting and increase humidity in the habitat. Now you can gently open each Cup and remove the filter paper, being very careful not to disturb the chrysalides. Sometimes silk fibers attach the chrysalis to the cup – use the brush to free it from the cup, but not from the paper. Use tape to attach the paper securely on an inside wall (not the top) of the Habitat. The chrysalides will be hanging downward and laying against the filter paper. Space them around 2″ apart. If any of your chrysalides become detached from the paper, gently lay them on a napkin on the floor of the Habitat, next to a side wall. The chances are good that they will still emerge as healthy butterflies. Once every day use the Mister to give them a gentle mist of room temperature water. They will do better if misted but are OK without it. Too much misting is worse than no misting. As with the Cups, the Habitat should be kept at room temperature and out of direct sunlight.
Birth of your Butterflies
Although, from the outside, the 7 to 10 days of the chrysalis phase seems to be a time when nothing is happening, it is really a time of rapid change. Within the chrysalis the old body parts of the caterpillar are undergoing a remarkable transformation, called metamorphosis, to become the beautiful parts that make up the butterfly that will emerge.
Approximately 7 to 10 days after they have made their chrysalis the butterfly will emerge. The chrysalides will get darker as the time to emerge gets closer. Keep your eyes on them now as you may get to witness the birth of a butterfly! As a butterfly emerges, it will hold onto the filter paper in a vertical position while stretching its wings to full size. Don’t be alarmed if you see a red liquid, which may look like blood, coming from the tail of the butterfly. This is called Meconium. It’s a waste product left over from the butterfly’s metamorphosis.
When a butterfly emerges its wings are soft and folded and it cannot fly. Over a period of 1 to 2 hours the butterfly stretches and strengthens its wings by forcing blood into their veins. During this time be careful not to touch or jiggle the habitat and do not try to touch the newly emerged butterflies. Only 1 to 2 hours after emerging the wings will be full-sized and completely hardened. The butterfly is now fully-grown and ready for flight. You can then reach into the habitat and remove the filter paper and chrysalis remains.
Feeding, Observing and Releasing the Butterflies
The normal lifespan of a butterfly is 2 to 4 weeks. You will want to observe your butterflies for a few days before you release them from the Habitat. Butterflies will not eat the first day but after that you need to feed them (see instructions below.) Butterflies eat by unrolling their proboscis (like a tongue) and drinking sweetened water. When they are finished they roll their proboscis back up. Butterflies taste with their feet. You can use the Eye Dropper to place a drop of sugar water near the feet of a butterfly resting on the side of the cage to see if they feed on it. Butterflies also like to drink from slices of freshly cut watermelon, banana or orange. Once every day use the Mister to give the butterflies a gentle mist of room temperature water.
To feed your butterflies make a sugar solution by mixing a single sugar packet in 1/4 cup of water. Fill the feeder cup almost to the top and replace the lid. The cotton wick will stay moist and the butterflies will drink the sugar water from the moist wick. Set the feeder on the floor of the Habitat. Keep extra sugar water refrigerated between feedings. Rinse and refill the feeder (no soap) once a week. If you run out of sugar solution you can make more by mixing 1tsp of real sugar with 4 oz of water.
After observing your butterflies for a few days we recommend that you release them into their natural environment. This way they can continue their normal life cycle and breed and lay the eggs that will become caterpillars. The butterflies are not likely to breed within the Habitat because they prefer plants for laying their eggs. Painted Ladies live throughout North America so you can safely release them anywhere. When temperatures are above 55°F it is safe to release the butterflies. Once released, the butterflies can often be seen for several days in the vicinity of their release. If it is too chilly, you can keep them inside for their full lifespan.
Visit us at www.NatureGifts.com when you are ready to rear butterflies again.
BUTTERFLY KIT FACTS:
Q: How long before I get the caterpillars?
A: If your kit came with a certificate for caterpillars, mail it or fax it to us per the instructions. Allow 2 weeks for them to arrive.
Q: Can I order butterflies during the winter?
A: Only order if it is above 40°F in your area. Then, you can keep the butterflies in the Habitat for their full lifespan instead of releasing them outside.
Q: What if a few of the caterpillars die?
A: You may loose a few larvae, chrysalis or butterflies to natural causes. If a loss is discovered, let it lead to discussions on life such as food chains, germs, life cycles, predators vs. prey, etc. We add extra caterpillars and food so you have some spares on hand.
Q: Can kids remove the Cup lid and play with the caterpillars?
A: No. Removing the lid may introduce harmful bacteria. They have all the food and air they need to develop.
Q: Why are the chrysalides shaking?
A: This is a natural instinct to ward off predators. Some may shake and some may not.
Q: If a chrysalis falls off the paper, what should I do?
A: Gently lay it on the bottom of the Habitat on a napkin near a wall of the Habitat. These are usually OK.
Q: What is the red liquid I see coming from the butterflies right after they emerge?
A: It is called Meconium. It is the leftover coloring and tissues from the butterfly’s metamorphosis. It is not blood.
Q: How long before I have butterflies?
A: Approximately 3 weeks: 5 to 10 days in the caterpillar stage and 7 to 10 days in the chrysalis stage.
Q: How long will the butterflies live?
A: Their normal life span is 2 to 4 weeks in the wild or in the Habitat.
Q: When should I release my adult butterflies?
A: After observing the adult butterflies for a few days you can release them if the temperature is above 55°F.
Q: How do I clean my butterfly habitat before reusing it?
A: Just rinse the mesh with warm tap water and hang to dry. Then you’re ready to raise some more!
You can visit www.TheButterflySite.com for more information on the Butterfly Life Cycle and Biology