Watch an incredible transformation as caterpillars turn into magnificent butterflies right in front of your eyes, in as little as 18 to 21 days. Butterfly garden kits include everything you need to start your own butterfly habitat, including the live caterpillars. If your garden lacks a little activity, a butterfly kit may be just what you need, but the activity will be short-lived. Butterflies have a life span of only approximately two to four weeks.
Butterfly garden kits contain a reusable mesh container used as the butterfly habitat, a mister to wet the chrysalis and butterflies, a feeding pipette or eye dropper to disperse sugar water, instructions and four to five live caterpillars. The kit also contains all the necessary nutrients for the growing caterpillars. After the butterflies emerge, you may need to provide a sugar water mixture or pieces of fresh fruit for food. Your kit may contain a butterfly feeder, which consists of a paper cup with a cotton wick to dispense the sugar water.
Thoroughly read the instructions because simple oversights such as putting the caterpillars in direct sunlight could seriously affect the growing process. The caterpillars arrive in a small container with a lid that has all the food and moisture needed to transform them into butterflies. Place the cup in a room that remains between 68 and 78 degree Farenheit, away from sunlight, which can cause the temperature and moisture levels to rise; if these levels rise too much, it can kill the caterpillars. The caterpillars remain in the cup for about 10 to 12 days.
After a week or so, the caterpillars gradually form a chrysalis, shedding exoskeletons as they grow. A chrysalis is the pupa of a moth or butterfly, meaning the insect is in the process of developing. When fully grown, the caterpillar climbs to the top of the container and hangs from the paper disk under the lid, beginning its transformation. It’s important not to disturb or pick up the container, which could loosen the chrysalis from the disk. Mist the chrysalis once a day if the room is warm or particularly dry.
After the chrysalis is fully formed, gently open the cup and remove the disk. Use your finger to gently remove any silk strands and debris from around the chrysalis. This prevents the emerging butterfly from getting caught and trapped. Open the habitat and hang the paper disk on one of the hooks on an inside wall with the chrysalis hanging downward. Close the habitat and place it in a quiet area out of direct sunlight. If you look closely, you can barely see an outline of the butterfly as it develops.
In less than two weeks, butterflies will begin to emerge, but it's important not to touch them until their wings have completely expanded and dried, which may take one to two hours. Place fresh fruit slices on the inside floor of the habitat, removing the old fruit daily. Instead of fruit, you can mix 2 teaspoons of sugar into 1 cup of water and use the pipette or eye dropper to sprinkle the solution on fresh flowers placed on the floor of the habitat; sprinkle daily. Release the butterflies in the garden or observe them for a few days before letting them go.