Hatching Butterflies With Your Kids

Like most, my kids are enthralled with bugs. My oldest is particularly interested in butterflies. So, when my mom said that one of her citrus trees with full of swallowtail caterpillars, I told her to be sure to save us one so that we could watch it turn into a butterfly.
Being the awesome grandma that she is, my mom boxed one up and sent it to us via priority mail. The little gal arrived thirsty but very much alive and so our butterfly adventure began.
First we took our little caterpillar out of the box and watched her crawl around on a plate. That was fun.
Then we made her a cozy little home. Be sure that you have lots of whatever your caterpillar likes to eat on hand. They won’t eat just anything. Every caterpillar likes something different. The swallowtails that we have out here in Arizona like to eat citrus. So we clipped a bunch of citrus leaves and stuck them in our container.
Then we just kept an eye on her. We sprinkled water in the container everyday and changed out the old leaves with new. You may not know it, but caterpillars poop A LOT. So there was lots of cleaning to do everyday. Then, all of a sudden, one day she was in her chrysalis. We didn’t see it happen and we didn’t get any good pictures. Bummer.
While she was in her chrysalis (which I think she was in for about two weeks), we had to be sure to keep her environment moist. If the chrysalis dries out, then the changing caterpillar can die. So we kept a moist sponge in the bottom of the container and we sprayed her with water from a spray bottle daily.
Then one morning we noticed the chrysalis looking a little different. We watched but nothing happened. We left and went to the zoo for the day and when we came home, a beautiful butterfly was sitting in the bottom of our container!
We took the container outside and gently brought her out. She hung around for a while, drying her wings, and then she flew off!
It was such a fun experience and the girls were amazed. I think we’ll do it a bunch more times as we find different caterpillars.

Colleen Anderson
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3 of 4 comments
  • Anne McCoy Anne McCoy on Feb 06, 2014
    Douglas what is a pipevine and where do you get one? What did you plant it with?

  • Peggy B Peggy B on Jul 04, 2014
    it is a blessing that you are able to be home with your children. being both mother/wife...I have been raising Monarch butterflies for the past five years...this year though I don't have very many...I use a milkweed plant that attracts them...if you break a leaf,,white substance that looks like milk is what they feed on and that is through the leaves...one year I raised over 500 caterpillars, some did not survive...I had 4 butterfly containers and provided milkweed leaves for them to feed on..put branches in so they could attach n hang from...I am retired and have plenty of time on my hands with the many projects that I am doing....one morning I released 32 monarchs...I just eventually quit counting...there were so many of them..they would even hang from the fence rails and chicken wire trellis that I had placed near the milkweed plants...it was interesting and some of my retired friends could not understand my project...but I had enjoyment from watching a female lay an egg to the babies growing and feeding on leaves and then to a chrysalis and then to a butterfly...they are not food to predators because of the milkweed plant...I do have to watch for small wasps around the caterpillar...the wasps will prick the caterpillar...this year the production is very low...Texas is known to spray insecticides and cut down the milkweed plant because the seeds after drying out from the pod will fly and grow other places...some people say the plant is invasive but I do not think so....it is just beautiful watching the growth from an egg to butterfly...the males have a round black dot on the lower part of the wing...long message but had to share...this project would be very good for the kids to participate in...making sure the child wash hands from handling the plant and caterpillars...just a project at home that I so enjoy,,especially when the butterflies start the flight....many blessings to you in this journey with your family...