Have you ever considered watching life-cycles in your own home? I know, it sounds a bit crazy to some, but trust me, once you do it once, you’ll want to do it year after year!
In my classroom, I’ve watched eggs turn into chicks (amazing!!), eggs to tadpoles to frogs, and of course, caterpillars into butterflies!!! I have also watched caterpillars turn into beautiful butterflies in my own home, with my kids, 4 straight years now. Caterpillars to Butterflies is by far the easiest lifecycle to watch in your own home. They don’t take up much space, they come with all the food they need and the change is stark and happens fairly quickly (we usually have butterflies within 3 weeks, from the time I pick the caterpillars up).
It is very important in the Charlotte Mason Method of teaching to give children a chance to really slow down and take a look at things closely. What better way to give kids a chance to really look at what happens in the life-cycle of a butterfly than to have them in your own home! No rushing your child to give other children a chance, no hurrying to take a glimpse before the butterflies fly away! Ms. Mason suggested giving kids a chance to look at things long and hard enough for them to take a mental photograph.
Having caterpillars, their chrysalises, and Butterflies in your home also gives you and your kids a great chance to add them to your nature journal!!! I loved having my students keep a Caterpillar to Butterfly observation book during this time. It is fun to see how they change in just a few short weeks. I will also do this with my kiddos, when they are a bit older.
If you are wanting to watch the life-cycle of something in your home, then butterflies are the perfect option!
I order my butterflies here (for my Canadian readers). For our Homeschool I order the Butterfly Life Cycle Raising Kit, it comes with 8-10 larvae and enough food to last until they fully transform. It also comes with a sheet with all the instructions you will need and some fun facts about the Painted Lady Butterflies (the variety we always get).
I also have the small (12″ x 12″) enclosure (in black) and I have used it year after year. It folds up flat for easy storage and it plenty big enough for up to 12 butterflies. I have the black, because it is actually easier to see through the black mesh than the white.
What to Expect, day by day
Day 1 – You will bring your caterpillars home and realize, when you open the container, that their food smells. You will also notice that they are really, really small!
Day 2 – You will ALREADY notice that they have grown! It is crazy how quickly they start to grow. You will start seeing little balls on their artificial diet (food), it’s ok, this is only their excrement (I KNOW, GROSS!!!!) and those black balls are exoskeletons, as they shed theirs several times.
Day 4 – Today you may notice today some white webbing on the sides of your holding container. This webbing is what helps caterpillars hang onto leaves in the wild, it also helps protect them from predators.
Day 8 – This is when you may start seeing some of the caterpillars hang out around on the lid, which will be covered with either a piece of paper towel or a coffee filter. I have used both and they work equally well.
Day 16 – By this time either all or most of your caterpillars will have developed their Chrysalis (and NO, butterflies do not form cocoons, like Eric Carle tells us in The Very Hungry Caterpillar). This is a good time to look closely at the chrysalis…they are transparent and soon you will be able to see the wings of your caterpillar!!!
If any of the chrysalises detach from the paper towel, just leave them, they are usually just fine, and a fully formed, heathy butterfly will emerge when they have completed their change. When all your caterpillars have formed their chrysalises you will move your paper towel (or coffee filter, as seen below) to your enclosure (I usually use a few straight pins to attach it to the top of the enclosure).
Day 20 – 7-10 days after forming, your butterflies will emerge!!! As they start to emerge you may notice a reddish fluid all over the feeding medium, this is NOT blood!! It is Meconium, just a product left over from metamorphosis.
Day 21 – As the butterflies begin to emerge, make them a sugar-water mixture (1 teaspoon of sugar in 1/2 a cup of water), put it in a small cup, roll up a small piece of paper towel, and put it in the sugar-water mixture. The butterflies will land on it and drink it up! I also like to put some fresh, spring flowers inside the enclosure as they also drink the nectar from them. You can also feed them with fresh fruit!
After all Butterflies have Emerged – Release and Celebrate!!! I like to make sure I release them within a week. It’s important that they have time to find food, a mate, and a place to lay their eggs (if they are female). This is a great time to have a party. A lovely garden party would be so much fun! Or maybe even a fun Butterfly themed Poetry Teatime for my fellow Brave Writers. TAKE A TON OF PICTURES!! Kids and butterflies are one of the cutest things I’ve ever seen!
Tip: when you order, choose a later date, especially if you are in a colder climate. You want to make sure that it is nice and warm, but not too hot when you release your Butterflies. A cloudy day is best! I do a late May or early June release… here an early may release could mean your butterflies are taking flight for the first time in snow! I’m not sure about you, but I wouldn’t appreciate that if I were a butterfly…
Here are some of the resources I have accumulated over the years and have used year after year after year:
Have you ever raised butterflies at home with your kids? Do you have any tips to add? Comment below to tell use about your experience!
If you haven’t raised butterflies before, why not?!? What has been holding you back?
…drink coffee, love your kids ♥