Experience a Live Painted Lady Butterfly Kit
You really can't match the learning experience of raising your own painted lady butterflies with a live butterfly kit. It gives kids and adults an opportunity for an up-close and personal look at butterfly metamorphosis and provides a whole new appreciation for insects and nature in general. If you buy one at the right time of year, you can even make it a special event when you release your butterflies into the wild. (Interested in monarch butterfly kits instead? Click here!)
Live Butterfly Kit OptionsThere are three main companies who produce painted lady butterfly kits - Insect Lore, Nature Gift Store and Educational Science. There are several different versions of the kits, which can be a bit confusing. Most importantly, you can choose to order the kit with a voucher for caterpillars so you can the manufacturer know exactly when you want to receive your caterpillars, but you aren't ready for them right away, or you can buy a kit that comes with live caterpillars. If you buy a kit with a voucher, you may have to pay an additional fee to have the caterpillars shipped. Insect Lore, as of this article's publishing, charges between $5 - $8.95 to redeem a voucher. Nature Gift Store does not charge anything to redeem the voucher but the cost of a kit with a voucher is a couple dollars more than the kit with live caterpillars. Educational Science includes this cost in their price.
Below are the options for buying kits with links to purchase them from Insect Lore (on Amazon), Nature Gift Store or Educational Science.
KITS WITH VOUCHERS
Live Butterfly Kit with Voucher for 10 caterpillars
Only Nature Gift Store offers a kit with a voucher for 10 caterpillars. Insect Lore only has vouchers for 5 caterpillars. Nature Gift Store's comes with a choice of an 18" pop-up cage or a 3' hanging cage. No extra charge to ship caterpillars.
Nature Gift Store Kit with Voucher for 10 Caterpillars
Live Butterfly Kit with Voucher for 5 caterpillars
Insect Lore | Nature Gift Store | Educational Science
Live Butterfly Kit with Voucher for 6-12 caterpillars
KITS WITH LIVE CATERPILLARS
Live Butterfly Kit shipped with 6-12 caterpillars
CLASSROOM BUTTERFLY KITS
All three companies offer kits for the classroom. Insect Lore's comes with 33 live caterpillars. Nature Gift Store offers 30 caterpillars shipped now or later. Educational Science's comes with 100 caterpillars!
Insect Lore | Nature Gift Store | Educational Science
(Our favorite pick for the classroom is actually Educational Science's Painted Lady AND Monarch Butterfly Kit. It includes everything you need to raise both species and let the kids see the difference in development!)
All three companies offer purchases of just the caterpillars. You can buy 5, 10 or 30-33 from Nature Gift Store and Insect Lore. Educational Science offers several amounts either shipped immediately, or you can buy a certificate for a later ship date.
Nature Gift Store Caterpillars
Insect Lore - 5 | 10 | 33
Educational Science (all kits)
TIMINGOnce you receive your caterpillars, it takes 7-10 days for them to go into their chrysalids, and then another 7-10 days for them to emerge as adults. You should give them a couple of days to let their wings dry before you release them. This should help you figure out when you want to receive your caterpillars. If you're giving this to someone as a gift, buy the kit with the voucher and they can decide when they want to receive the caterpillers. It's important to note that these caterpillars can only be shipped if temperatures are no higher than 85 degrees in your area or they can die in the excessive shipping heat. Make sure to keep this in mind when ordering.
TIPSMost kits come with a mesh pop-up tent to house the caterpillars and butterflies. This is an awesome cage! We have used it for many other things, including lightning bugs and other cool insects we want to spend a little time with. SUGGESTION - before you use it, place a paper plate in the bottom of it to help it stay clean. Those cute little caterpillers poop A LOT and so do the butterflies. More importantly, when the butterflies first emerge from their chrysalis, their wings drip a red liquid called meconium. It is the leftover metabolic waste from the caterpillar and can stain the mesh housing.
Nature Gift Store sells three different cage sizes if you would like additional butterfly cages. They come in very handy!
Educational Science sells a large selection of butterfly cages in many sizes:
Click to shop Educational Science butterfly cages.
WARNING: BUTTERFLIES WILL MATE!
If you don't want a ton of tiny caterpillars to take care of after your butterflies emerge, make sure you release the butterflies within a week of hatching. After that, the adults will start mating and laying eggs in the cage. If this happens, you can place the eggs outdoors on plant life (preferably one that Painted Ladies eat (click here for butterfly plant list). If you keep them even longer, you will end up with a lot of baby caterpillars. If you decide you want to raise these caterpillars, you will need to provide food. Painted Lady caterpillars love to eat thistle, hollyhock, fiddleneck, and malva. Be sure the leaves are pesticide-free and place them near your caterpillars in your habitat. Alternately, you can purchase Painted Lady Caterpillar Food on Amazon or from Nature Gift Store.
Here are some accessories to make your butterfly rearing experience even richer!