Raising Butterflies at Home

When raising butterflies at home, some important things to remember are that butterflies need an undisturbed place to go through their growth cycle. Once they have gone through those stages, they only live about a month longer. The stages include egg, caterpillar, chrysalis, and adult or butterfly. Each stage takes about two weeks to complete. The caterpillar stage lasts the longest because this is the time they grow the most.

When raising butterflies, it is important to know their host plant. This is the food the female lays her eggs on and oftentimes it is the food that the caterpillars live on. However, some will crawl off the host plant and eat other leaves that help with the growth process. Know what those plants are. Then, go out and look for the eggs on the host plants. Collect them, so you have enough on hand, to sustain the little guys. Put some in a jar and cover it, leaving air holes so the caterpillars can breathe. Children are great at finding eggs. Eggs take about a week to hatch.

Caterpillars outgrow their skins and get bigger four or five times. These are called instars.  Each time the caterpillar changes its skin it eats its old skin. Then it continues eating and growing. The final time that it does this, it will form the next stage called a chrysalis.

The chrysalis stage is the stage where metamorphosis takes place. Depending on the species and the time of year, the duration is two weeks or until the warm season comes. Most butterflies come from chrysalises but a few will come out of cocoons. The main difference between the two is the material used to make it. Only skin parts from the caterpillar make a chrysalis. Dirt, hair, leaves, and other materials make up a cocoon.

The final stage is the adult or butterfly. Butterflies are pollinators and help plants to grow. They drink nectar from the flowers. They have a straw-like tongue called a proboscis which they use to drink. They find a mate flitting around bushes and plants. The whole cycle starts again. Stinging insects can harm the butterflies. Protect the area from bees, mosquitoes, and horseflies. At this stage, letting the butterflies fly free will insure the continuance of the butterfly.

At each stage, the area where you raise the caterpillars should grow. Caterpillars like to crawl. So, a space big enough for them to do that is helpful. Cats and dogs are predators. Keep the animals away from the breeding area.


2006, Judy Burris and Wane Richards, The Life Cycle of Butterflies