Welcome To Your Caterpillar To Butterfly Kit Experience
Caring for your Caterpillars
Look carefully at your caterpillar cup and you will see there are tiny holes punched in the lid for air. 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 you may gently pick up the cup to look at them but do not shake it or be rough with them.
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 your caterpillars will climb to the top of the cup and attach themselves, by strands of silk, to the special disk that is under the lid of the cup. They will hang upside down from the disk and make a “J” shape. Once they are in the “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 habitat. By this time they should all be firmly attached to the disk under the lid of the cup. To move them to the habitat you are going to move the whole disk, not the individual chrysalides. First, set up your habitat. Then gently open the cup and remove the disk, being very careful not to disturb the chrysalides. Carefully remove any webbing that may be stuck to the chrysalides. If you have our supply bag, there is a little hook included you can use to hang the disk securely on an inside wall (not the top) of the habitat. Otherwise you can use a safety pin or tape. 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 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 a 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 cup, the habitat should be kept at room temperature and out of direct sunlight.
Birth of your Butterflies
Approximately 7 to 10 days after they have made their chrysalis your butterfly will emerge. 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.
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 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 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 its 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. Your butterfly is now fullygrown and ready for flight. You can then reach into the habitat and remove the disk 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 an 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 a mister to give the butterflies a gentle mist of room temperature water.
If you have our butterfly feeder make a sugar solution by mixing a single sugar packet in ¼ 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. You can make a feeder by putting cotton balls or crumpled paper towels in a shallow dish and keep them moist with a mix of 1 tsp of real sugar and ½ cup 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. 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. When temperatures are above 55°F it is safe to release your 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.
Butterfly Kit Facts:
Q: Do you give a guarantee?
A: It’s possible that you might lose a few caterpillars, chrysalis or butterflies to natural causes. Because of this, we do guarantee 3 caterpillars from your cup to become healthy butterflies. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for help.
Q: How long before I get my caterpillars?
A: If your kit came with a certificate for caterpillars, mail, fax or e-mail 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: My caterpillars aren’t moving. Are they dead?
A: Probably not, it may take days before they decide to move.
Q: Can I 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: All caterpillars have made a chrysalis except for one. Should I wait to transfer them into my habitat?
A: While your caterpillars are roughly the same age, sometimes a last caterpillar may need a little more time. You can wait 3 days for him to change and if he does not, move the chrysalides into the habitat now and put a piece of paper towel under the lid for the last caterpillar to attach to when he is ready.
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 disk, 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!