As part of our Science curriculum, we have an ongoing project this Spring observing the lifecycle of the Painted Lady butterfly. We bought a butterfly habitat redeemed the enclosed certificate through Insect Lore. Within a few days we had five caterpillars shipped to us.
Our caterpillars (the butterfly larval stage) were only approximately 1.5 cm when they arrived, but they quickly doubled in size. Within a week we had 3.0 cm caterpillars in our little cup.
After a little more than a week from the time they arrived, our caterpillars started getting restless, and finally moved to the top of the cup to pupate. In our pictures, you can see how they hang down, in a sort of J-shape formation. Slowly the crysalis formed from the bottom upward. Within a couple of days, all five of our caterpillars were encased, hanging from the top of the cup. There was a thin piece of paper on the inside of the lid for transferring the crysalides to the larger butterfly habitat.
This past weekend, after more than a week in the pupal stage, our butterflies emerged! We now have five beautiful butterflies in our enclosure. It is so awesome to observe the butterflies up close, seeing their little body parts. For several minutes we watched our butterflies curl and uncurl their little proboscis, enjoying the sliced oranges I placed in the bottom of the butterfly house. We are still undecided on whether we will keep our butterflies for the entire lifecycle (waiting for eggs to be layed) or release them on an upcoming warm day.
One of our co-op members posted a wonderful resource on Painted Lady butterflies – this site has a lot of information and pointers for raising butterflies. While this project was done to follow along with our Biology curriculum, I think this is a great stand-alone project. And once you have the butterfly house you can always order additional caterpillars (the initial set they send is included in the price of the butterfly house, not including shipping costs).