We are big fans of science and nature in our family. And one science adventure that we enjoy is raising caterpillars into butterflies and then releasing the butterflies into the wild. We were so excited when we found out that Riverbottom Butterflies sold cups of caterpillars. You can pick them up locally right here in Utah.
We picked up our painted lady caterpillars from Riverbottom Butterflies, and immediately got them set up. We were lucky enough to be a trial family for Monarch caterpillars, so we had two different types of caterpillars to watch change into beautiful butterflies.
The most common caterpillars to raise at home are Painted Ladies. These caterpillars come in a cup with all the food they need until they emerge from their chrysalis. When we picked up our kit, it came with the caterpillar cup, a pop-up net to put the chrysalises in, and instructions. Everything was easy and ready to go.
We watched our 5 caterpillars grow and after about 2 weeks, they crawled to the top, hung upside down, and formed their chrysalis. Once they all were transformed, we took the top of the cup and moved it into the pop-up. And in just a few weeks, our butterflies emerged.
The monarch caterpillars were quite a bit different. They came with their own milkweed plant, which we later planted in our garden. The caterpillars munched happily on the milkweed leaves and our job was to water the plant every few days. The plant was already in the pop-up.
After the caterpillars are grown up, they leave the plant and crawl to the top of the pop-up to form their chrysalis. The monarch chrysalises are so cool. They are green, and then as the butterflies get ready to emerge, the chrysalis turns clear and you can see the monarch inside.
Releasing the Butterflies
The best part of raising caterpillars is releasing them. Once the butterflies have hatched, they need just a few hours to dry their wings, but we waited a day just to be sure. Then we carefully took the butterflies outside and set them free. Our boys loved carefully lifting them out of the enclosure and watching them fly away.
It is such a fun experience and we had lots of great discussions. Half of our painted lady caterpillars didn’t make it, and we aren’t sure why. They never hatched from their chrysalis, but it was a lesson about nature and how the circle of life works.
Riverbottom Butterflies is a great spot to bring some science into your house. It’s a fun at home adventure, and it supports a local farm. To order, visit their website. If you are interested in monarch caterpillars, you will need to email them about availability.