Experience a Live Butterfly Kit
You really can't match the learning experience of raising your own 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.
Live Butterfly Kit OptionsThere are two main companies who produce painted lady butterfly kits - Insect Lore and Nature Gift Store. 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 will have to pay an additional fee to have the caterpillars shipped. Insect Lore, as of this article's publishing, charges between $5 - $7.95 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. In general, Nature Gift Store is less expensive than Insect Lore.
Below are the options for buying kits with links to purchase them from Insect Lore (on Amazon) or from Nature Gift Store.
KITS WITH VOUCHERS
Live Butterfly Kit with Voucher for 10 caterpillars (Insect Lore not pre-paid, Nature Gift Store IS pre-paid)
(Insect Lore's comes with a 2-foot high cage versus 1-foot in their kits with 5 caterpillars. Requires an additional $5 fee to ship 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.)
Insect Lore | Nature Gift Store
Live Butterfly Kit with Voucher for 5 caterpillars
Insect Lore | Nature Gift Store
Live Butterfly Kit with Voucher (pre-paid) for 10 caterpillars
Nature Gift Store
KITS WITH LIVE CATERPILLARS
CLASSROOM BUTTERFLY 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!
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 (preferable 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!