How to Keep a Butterfly Habitat Going

Friday, July 18, 2008

I ordered a butterfly habitat for Samuel from Amazon a couple of months ago, then sent away for the caterpillars, which arrived within a couple of weeks. They are sent in a little plastic cup sealed with a lid containing all the food they need until they form into their chrysalides. When this happens, you open the cup, remove the paper disc from the inside, from which all the chrysalides are hopefully hanging, and pin it to the side of the habitat. 7 to 10 days later, the butterflies are born. We actually got to watch two of the butterflies emerge from their chrysalides! Don't worry if you see red stains on the side of the habitat--when the butterflies are born, they pass meconium, which is red in color, and this happens when they start pumping their wings for the first time.

To feed the butterflies, all you do is soak cotton swabs in a diluted solution of sugar or honey water (two teaspoons to one cup of water) every few days, and put them on the bottom of the habitat. If you're lucky, like we were, the butterflies will begin mating within a week or so, and a few days after that, will start laying eggs, which are as small as the point of a pin and ours were bluish in color. Ours laid hundreds of eggs, and many of them have now hatched. I've added cosmos and mallow to the habitat for the larvae to eat, and some of the larvae are nearly an inch long already! It's actually quite amazing how quickly they grow.

The butterflies only live for about a month, but if you provide food for the larvae and keep the habitat out of the direct sunlight, it is possible to keep the life cycle going and observe complete metamorphosis over and over again. If not, release the butterflies after a few days and enjoy them in your garden. Good luck!

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