Insects > Butterflies > Rearing

The Educational Experience of Raising Butterflies

5 yr-old Dwight Smith of Beach Park, Illinois reared Painted Lady Butterflies with a butterfly kit.

Parents are always looking for the coolest, most unusual gifts to give their kids that the children will love to receive and that they can learn from. Raising butterflies is truly an educational experience that every child will want to do over and over again.

You can take the kids on a hike to search for butterfly eggs and collect them, then make a home for them, being sure to provide them with the appropriate food for the caterpillars to eat, something for them to climb on and make their cocoon, and something for the butterflies to eat once they emerge. Make sure you have adequate fresh food growing nearby for your hungry caterpillars! Punch small holes in the jar lid, or cover the top with a fine screen mesh held on with a rubber band. Keep a damp paper towel in the container. Frequently clean the cage of frass (droppings). Replace the food plants as necessary, when the leaves have been eaten or turn dry. As the newly hatched caterpillars grow, they will need plenty of food and space.

OR you can make it easy on yourself and buy a butterfly kit to raise Painted Lady Butterflies (although the hike to find the eggs in their natural habitat is a good idea, too, just don’t collect them).

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A video of a Painted Lady Butterfly  

The educational experience of raising butterflies is something that your children will never forget. They will learn about the life cycle of the butterfly because they will watch the transformation day by day from the egg state all the way through the metamorphosis to a butterfly. Be sure to watch each stage of butterfly development carefully. You may observe how the egg changes color before hatching, how the caterpillar eats and moves, and how it changes features and perhaps color as it grows. Check on the pupa often so you can release the adult outside soon after it emerges. (Biology)

Buy live monarch caterpillars or painted lady caterpillars to watch them grow.
These kids got to observe live Painted Lady caterpillars turn into Butterflies.

The children will also learn about the conservation of butterflies, and they will be helping to save them. Butterflies are disappearing at an alarming rate, as are many insects, because of urban development. There is just no place left for them to lay their eggs that is safe enough for the caterpillars to survive, it seems. Raising butterflies, and then releasing them into the wild once they transform, is one of the best ways to help save the species. (Ecology)

Children will be responsible for cleaning the butterfly house, as well as making sure that there is enough food and spritzing the butterfly house regularly (according to the directions on the Painted Lady Butterfly kit, if you choose to go that way). This is a wonderful alternative to, or practice for, a more permanent kind of pet, like a dog or a cat. (Responsibility)

Teachers can buy a live School Size Painted Lady Butterfly raising kit.
Teachers can buy a live School Size Painted Lady Butterfly raising kit.

Once the butterflies have emerged from their cocoons, the children should be allowed to watch them for a day or two, but the butterflies should be released within that time so that they can quickly learn to be on their own in the wild. Also, it should be noted, that butterflies only have a life span of a few weeks once they have turned into butterflies, so it is probably best to make sure that they are released before their life span ends. Remember your first goldfish? The death of any pet is tragic for a child, but the feeling that they are saving the butterflies is a wonderful experience and they will be proud of themselves for letting them go. (A little growing up)

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Butterfly Rearing Links

We offer several Painted Lady Butterfly Rearing kits, so that YOU can raise LIVE butterflies- watch the transformation of Caterpillar to Butterfly for education and enjoyment at home!

Nature Store  At the nature store we have butterflies for sale: several kits for rearing LIVE painted lady butterflies - from 5 to 33 caterpillars! Our kits make Painted Lady Butterfly rearing EASY - simple directions and everything you need is included. Ages 4+. A fun gift for kids and adults, as well as a great project for home-schoolers and classrooms.
Rearing Caterpillars By the Entomologist’s Society. About finding caterpillars,housing, feeding and more.
How to Rear Butterflies and Moths All about rearing – habitat, food, water, cleaning, and handling.
Rearing Butterflies at Home Website for children to help  them through the rearing of butterflies in a simplified form (will require some adult supervision).
Berkeley's Anise Swallowtails Lots of pictures of the stages of the Anise swallowtail's life cycle; emphasis on caterpillars and raising them, but butterfly pics as well. One of the best written and documented butterfly rearing sites out there. Also fun to read!!
Swallowtail Butterflies Farm A LIVE BUTTERFLY RELEASE will make your wedding the most memorable event your guests have ever experienced! We are the LARGEST supplier of Live Wedding Butterflies and specialize in making your butterfly wedding perfect. We guarantee your beautiful butterflies will arrive alive and in time for your event.
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