Raising your own caterpillars can be so easy and truly riveting for even the youngest of children. Instead of buying a kit and ordering caterpillars that might be nonnative to your area, you can start with monarch butterflies which are native to the continental US and much of South America.
To create an outdoor butterfly habit you need to grow a host plant and a nectar plant. The host plant is where the butterfly lays her eggs and will feed the very hungry caterpillars. We have noticed that if you plant the host plants near nectar plants, the caterpillar will climb down the host plant and make his chrysalis near the nectar plant. He will be ready to drink when he emerges.
Monarchs lay their eggs on milkweed, which is widely available. In fact, many times when you buy milkweed it is already full of eggs. A great nectar plant for monarchs is pentas. If you combine these two you should have the whole life cycle in your yard within a season.
We used to watch the caterpillars in the garden daily and could tell when they were about the turn into a chrysalis by their very slow movement, and eventual upside down position. But, if you skipped checking on them for just a few hours, you might miss the whole thing. And finding the completed chrysalis is nearly impossible. So, now we bring stalks of milkweed in a water jar into our indoor hamper habitat. I found this amazing pop up hamper at the dollar store and it works great. When we get closer to show time, I will use clothes pins to clip the top closed. Right now, we have five hungry caterpillars and watch them eat complete leaves very quickly. Within a week or so they will be very fat and then a few weeks later we will release our butterlies back to their garden, so the process to repeat itself.
You can get more information about butterfly gardening from the North American Butterfly Association iincluding which other butterflies are native to your area and how to attract them.
If you liked this post, you will love Friday's Movie Night post!
Have you raised caterpillars? Which type?