Grow your own butterfly: an activity for children of all ages. To raise a caterpillar into a butterfly is a great lesson about the process of metamorphosis. According to the North American Butterfly Association, buying a pre-made butterfly kit is discouraged for the following reason, “This well-meaning but misguided practice spreads diseases to natural populations, inappropriately mixes genetically distinct populations of the same species, may disrupt migratory behavior of native butterflies, confuses scientific studies of butterfly migrations, and usually results in the untimely death of the butterflies released.” Because of this statement, we encourage you to find a caterpillar or an egg on your own for this activity.
*This activity was found on kidsbutterfly.org and the book How to Raise Monarch Butterflies: A Step-by-Step Guide for Kids by Carol Pasternak (if you choose to grow a Monarch butterfly, consider reading this book).
- a container
- plastic container for transport (like a large yogurt container with holes punched in the lid)
- netting or nylon
- leaves (research your caterpillar’s favorite food)
- paper towel
- pencil-sized twigs
- To find the types of butterflies that can be found in your area, visit raisingbutterflies.org and click on the region in which you live.
- Go on a search for either a caterpillar or a butterfly egg (which is the size of a sesame seed). Monarch eggs and caterpillars are usually found on the underside of milkweed leaves. This could take awhile so enjoy the time outside.
- Once a caterpillar or egg has been found, cut the leaf it’s on and put it in a plastic container for transport. Then transfer it to a container with netting over the top (a mason jar lid punched with holes does NOT allow for enough air ventilation).
- Research your caterpillar’s favorite food and include it in the container. For younger children: Read The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle.
- Also include a dry piece of paper towel in the container to reduce mold and a pencil-sized twig for the caterpillar to attach it’s chrysalis.
- Change the leaves and the paper towel out everyday. Keep your caterpillar in the plastic transfer container during cleaning.
- Keep the jar out of direct sunlight.
- When the caterpillar is about 10-14 days it will stop eating and begin to pupate.
- Caterpillars pupate for 1-2 weeks.
- Do not touch the butterfly as it breaks through the chrysalis. It’s wings must hang freely to avoid any defects.
- Let the butterfly free when it begins to flutter its’ wings.