Welcome To Your Caterpillar To Butterfly Kit Experience
You are about to witness the fascinating life journey of the beautiful painted lady butterflies! Expect the change from caterpillar to butterfly to take about 3 weeks. Caterpillars grow faster in warmer climates. Your fully grown painted ladies will live for 2 to 4 weeks. You can release them outside when the temperature is above 55°F.
Your Caterpillar To Butterfly Kit Consists Of
- Covered cup with caterpillars and food
- Water mister
- Butterfly feeder with cotton wick
- 2 packets of sugar
- A sugar water dropper
- Butterfly life cycle coloring page
- Butterfly habitat selected by you
You Will Need To Provide
- Water and a small bowl to mix and store the sugar solution
- Pieces of fruits such as watermelons, bananas or oranges
Your hungry caterpillars will gobble the food on the bottom of their covered cup to thrive and grow. In the wild, they like mallow and hollyhock plants, but they enjoy the nutritional mix also. Watch them eat, crawl, spin silk and grow many times their original size! If they do not move for quite some time, do not worry or try to move them on your own as it is part of the transformation process.
As your caterpillars eat and grow, you will begin to see little balls at the bottom of the covered cup. They are actually caterpillars’ frass or waste and should be left in the cup. While the caterpillars are in the cup you may carefully pick up the cup to look at them but be very gentle with your painted ladies.
Important Note: Keep your caterpillars in the covered cup at room temperature (68°F to 78°F) and out of direct sunlight. Direct sunlight may cause condensation in the cup which is not healthy for the caterpillars. Keep the lid on the cup at all times to prevent introducing bacteria into it.
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. Your caterpillars will climb to the top of the covered cup and attach themselves, by strands of silk, to the disk under the lid of the cup. They will hang upside down from the disk making a “J” shape. They will shed a very thin layer of outer skin that you may not even notice at first. After that, they’ll get covered in a harder skin and start to rapidly transform into butterflies.
Important Note: During the first day, while the chrysalides are forming, it is very important that you do not disturb or move your caterpillars. This is the most vulnerable stage in the development of your pretty painted ladies.
Caring For Your Chrysalides
The best time to move your caterpillars into your butterfly habitat is 24 hours after all of them have formed chrysalides. By this time they should all be firmly attached to the disk under the lid of the covered cup. In order to move them to the habitat, you have to move the whole disk and not individual chrysalides.
- Keep your pop-up habitat on a stable, flat surface. In case you’ve got the hanging habitat, hang it using the C-shape screw that has been provided.
- Add water to the butterfly feeder (no sugar) and place it at the center of the habitat’s floor. This will help remove wrinkles from the netting and start to increase the humidity inside the habitat.
- Gently open the covered cup and remove the disk while being very careful not to disturb the chrysalides.
- Hang the disk securely on an inside wall (not the top) of the habitat using the hook attached to the disk. The chrysalides will be hanging downward and laying against the disk.
- If any of your chrysalides become detached from the disk, gently lay them on a napkin on the habitat’s floor next to a side wall. There is a good chance for them to still emerge as healthy butterflies.
- Use the water mister once every day to provide a gentle mist of room temperature water inside your habitat. Too much misting is worse than no misting.
Important Note: As with the covered cup, the habitat should be kept at room temperature room temperature (68°F to 78°F) and out of direct sunlight.
Open the lid of the covered cup to reveal the hook attached to disk.
Remove the disk while being very careful not to disturb the chrysalides.
Hang the disk securely to an inside wall (not the top) of the habitat using the hook.
Birth Of Your Butterflies
About 7 to 10 days after their chrysalides have been formed your butterflies will emerge. During this period, from the outside it appears as if nothing is happening but it is in fact a time of rapid changes. Within the chrysalis, the old body parts of your caterpillars undergo a remarkable transformation. They change into the beautiful body parts of your soon-to-emerge butterflies. This remarkable transformation is called metamorphosis.
The chrysalides will get darker as the time to emerge gets closer. If you are patient enough and keep your eyes on them you will get to witness the birth of your butterflies. As a butterfly emerges it will hold onto the disk 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 liquid is called meconium and it’s a waste product left over from the butterfly’s metamorphosis.
When a butterfly emerges its wings are soft and folded and so it cannot fly. Over a period of 1 to 2 hours, the butterfly stretches and strengthens its wings by forcing blood into the veins. After that your butterflies will be fully-grown and ready for flight. You can then reach into the habitat to remove the disk and chrysalis remains.
Important Note: Do not try to touch the newly emerged butterflies. Be careful not to move or disturb the habitat for 1 to 2 hours after the butterflies emerge, while they unfold and harden their wings.
Feeding, Observing And Releasing Your Butterflies
The normal lifespan of a painted lady butterfly is about 2 to 4 weeks. You will want to observe your butterflies for a few days before you release them outside. Butterflies will not eat the first day but after that you need to feed them.
To feed your butterflies:
- Make a sugar solution by mixing a single sugar packet in 1/4th 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 1 tablespoon of real sugar with 4 oz. of water.
Butterflies eat by unrolling their proboscis and drinking sweetened water. When they are finished, they roll their proboscis back up. Butterflies taste with their feet. You can use the sugar water dropper to place a drop of sugar water near the feet of a butterfly, while it rests on the side of the cage. Butterflies also like to drink from slices of freshly cut watermelon, banana or orange. Once every day use the water mister to give your butterflies a gentle mist of room temperature water.
After observing your butterflies for a few days you should release them outside. They will continue their normal life cycle, breed and lay the eggs that will become more caterpillars. Your 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 you’d like. Once released, the butterflies can often be seen for several days in the vicinity of their release.
Important Note: It is safe to release your butterflies when temperature outside is above 55°F. If it is too chilly, you can keep them inside for their full lifespan.