Butterfly Kits: A Complete Guide to Raising Butterflies at Home

Butterfly kits are a fun, hands-on way to bring science to life for your kids! We’ve done these several times during our 15 years of homeschooling and we’ve learned something new every time. This guide to butterfly kits will help you know what to expect, as well as give you some resources to use along with it to enhance the learning (and fun)!

Don’t forget to download your free butterfly printables below!

raising butterflies

Our Experience with a Butterfly Kit

Our butterfly kit has arrived! Some creepy, crawly, furry guests have taken up residence at our house and we actually invited them! That’s right — the caterpillars have arrived! Big Sis has been looking forward to raising some caterpillars who will one day (soon) become Painted Lady butterflies! How cool is that? I don’t remember getting this excited about science when I was growing up!

They’re from Insect Lore, a familiar and trusted brand, via Amazon. They ship 5 and guarantee that at least 3 will mature. Right now, we seem to have 5 thriving caterpillars!

I cannot believe how much the caterpillars have grown already in just in a few days! And I thought my babies grew quickly!

I highly recommend adding some fun hands-on activities into your study, like this edible butterfly life cycle.

I made these fun butterfly life cycle play dough mats that you might want to check out:

Butterfly Kit: New Arrivals

Yes, we really do have a butterfly curtain on our kitchen window.

Now, some funny reactions to their arrival. Remember that Big Sis was a non-stop talker at the time:

Big Sis: Wow, they’re cool! They’re gross! Are they sleeping? (It takes them a little bit to “perk up” when they arrive.) Why do such ugly things become beautiful butterflies? Bugs are creepy you know. Do you think they’re sad since the rest of their family must be in California (where the box was shipped from)? At least they have each other. They must be sisters, so that’s good.

DH: How do you know there aren’t any boys?

Big Sis: Because they’re Painted Ladies! If there were boys, then they would be Painted Men!

Makes sense, right?

Me: No way am I touching those gross things! I don’t care if they are in a jar. There are live bugs in our house! Ack!

*shudder* Yeah, I’d never make it as a scientist.

Download these free butterfly activity pages here:

Caterpillar Transformation

Our caterpillars are transforming!

Our caterpillars grew quickly and each of the five made a chrysalis at the top of the jar. It was exciting to cheer them on and watch as they each climbed to the top and hung upside down. This happened between the 7th and 9th days after they arrived. 

Big Sis documented the progress and drew some pictures for her lapbook and butterfly journal. She said she decided not to name them because she didn’t want to get too attached to them since we planned to release them. *sniff* I think it was too late to not get attached to them. I even found myself rooting for them. BugsReally.

The next step was actually transferring them to the netted butterfly house. DH did this part because I didn’t want to touch them. Because they’re bugs, remember? We were nervous since they seemed so fragile and papery, but it worked out.

Big Sis thought it was pretty entertaining to watch them jump and twist occasionally like Mexican jumping beans. She learned that it is a method of self-defense to deter predators. As two of the last caterpillars climbed their way to the top, they apparently came too close for comfort to the other chrysalides so we got to see this in action.

New Butterflies

I’m happy to report that we managed not to kill any all five chrysalides hatched into pretty Painted Lady butterflies! There was a brief moment of panic when Lil Sis (3) wanted to get a “closer look” and shook the butterfly house a little by grabbing it a tad too roughly, but all was fine in the end.

Each butterfly emerged after about 9-11 days over a 2 day time span. We made sure to feed them daily with a sugar water mixture. We learned that carnations are a preferred flower, so we got some of those and carefully placed the sugar water mixture on the petals with a dropper. We were able to observe butterflies using their proboscis like a straw to drink it up.

After about a week, it was time to let them go. Although she had grown attached to them, Big Sis really wanted to release the butterflies into their natural environment. It was a bittersweet moment for her. She told them that they were welcome to visit anytime and warned them to watch out for birds and spider webs. A caring mama right to the last minute!

We have always enjoyed watching butterflies around our yard, but now we have a vested interest. We looked for our Painted Ladies over the next few weeks and we actually spotted a Monarch and a Swallowtail as well! Since completing this study and lapbook, we can identify several different types of butterflies.

I never would’ve believed it was possible to get attached to bugs, but this study did give me an even deeper appreciation for the complexities and diversity of God’s creation and the little miracles that happen around us everyday. If He cares so much for these creatures, how much greater is His concern for us? It’s a nice lesson to see that God is involved in the details of such things.

Overall it was a great experience that Big Sis will never forget. Before we even got back inside the house after releasing them, she asked me if we could do it again! And how about ladybugs, too? I guess this mom will have to get used to bugs in the house. *shudder*

Butterfly Resources

In addition to the Butterflies unit study we did, I also found the following resources to use:

20 Adorable Butterfly Crafts for Kids

7 Plants You Need in Your Garden to Attract Butterflies

The Best Butterfly Books for Kids

Crayola.com has some free printables and craft ideas, including this Butterfly Snack Shack.

Please leave a comment and let us know if you have ever raised butterflies or if you plan to in the future!

Butterfly Kits FAQ

Can I raise a butterfly at home?

Sure, you can order a butterfly kit. Also, if you know what to look for you can bring a caterpillar or chrysalis inside.

How long does it take for butterfly kits to grow?

From the time you get the kit containing caterpillars to releasing the butterflies is roughly 20 days. They come as small caterpillars, then transform into chrysalis within a week. They hatch as butterflies after 10 days and are finally ready for release after a few days.

When should you start a butterfly kit?

The best time to start a butterfly kit is March, April, or May. Once the temperature gets above 85°F the kits may not survive the heat during the shipping process.

How does a butterfly kit work?

You get live caterpillars in a jar with food. They form chrysalides themselves. You move the jar lid to a larger screen container which is included. They will hatch on their own. You can release them the next day or keep them a couple days if you feed them.

Sara
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3 Comments

  1. Cool links! Thanks for sharing! We’re doing Flying Creatures this year, too. Thought you might enjoy this:
    http://www.hmh.org/ed_butterfly1.shtml

    The Houston Holocaust Museum is collecting 1.5 million homemade butterflies to represent the same number of children who perished in the Holocaust to be displayed in an exhibit. Our kids made some butterflies to send. :o)

  2. We raised butterflies – 2 years ago – and it was very cool. My son loved it. Then he went to release them – and thought the releasing was so neat and fun until he realized they weren’t coming back. And then we had tears! I had thought he understood what ‘releasing’ them meant — but it turned into a very sad moment.

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