Way back in 2009 we had our first raising butterflies experience for a home-education project. Since then it has been an annual event, and in recent years we have raised two lots, one in Spring and one Summer. It is a wonderful learning experience, and children (and adults!) gain so much from being able to watch the process of caterpillar through to butterfly right up close. Even though I have viewed the various stages of metamorphosis over and over, I still find it a truly fascinating process.
We buy our live caterpillars from Insect Lore. The website is easy to navigate and full of educational resources and mini beast raising kits, including ants, silk worms, ladybirds and stick insects. We already have the butterfly ‘hatching habitat’ which consists of a pop up fabric mesh viewing cage. This is reusable year on year, so now we just purchase the caterpillar refills.
When ordering from the website, you need to choose your caterpillar dispatch date. Insect Lore have set posting days for their live kits, and you pick one from the calendar on the product page. I ordered ours on Wednesday of last week. They were dispatched on Friday, and we received them on Monday. None of the five caterpillars showed any adverse reaction to the postal journey.
They arrive in a box like this…
Inside you will find the lidded pot of between 3 and 5 Painted Lady caterpillars and their special food, a folded quick guide, a chrysalis station box, and a new addition – a sugar sachet for butterfly food. By purchasing the Insect Lore kit like this, you know that you don’t have to worry about providing food for the caterpillars as they get all their nutritional needs from what is in the tub. The included chrysalis station is a flattened small cardboard box, which when put together has a slot at the top. The lid of the tub fits in the slot once the caterpillars have transformed into their chrysalis phase. This is a great way of transferring from pot to enclosure. Those of you that have used the kits in years gone by may well remember the rather fiddly process of removing the paper circle that the chrysalides were hanging from, and attempting to carefully (often trembling!) attach it to the habitat garden side wall with a safety pin without causing any to fall!
At around the same time on day two, they were measuring 1.5cm.
You can see in this picture that a web like substance is being formed within the tub. This webbing is a good sign that all is developing well. The caterpillars spin this silk like web as they grow. Outside in their natural environment they would use the webbing to cling to their host plants, and it is also used to pull leaves around themselves in order to hide from predators.
On day three, the caterpillars are looking a lot bigger than those that initially arrived. They are now measuring around 2.4cm.
I will be keeping a record here of the process, and also including the work we do for our butterfly project. I am thinking we will create a lapbook this year. I haven’t made one with Taisia and Amara yet, and I am sure both will really enjoy both the designing, creating, and later on reading through such an interactive display. I will also be writing up a list of the websites and resources we use, and I’ll be sharing any worksheets or resources that I create along the way so do keep checking back if you are going to be studying Butterflies too.