Caterpillars 101

Hi friends! Thank you again to all who have supported us through a caterpillar adoption or tuned in to our Instagram Live. For anyone who missed that or would like to know more, keep reading!

You have adopted a Painted Lady caterpillar. Painted ladies are one of almost 200,000 species of butterflies! Painted ladies are found all over the world. The caterpillars feed on various plants like thistle, certain daisies, and cheeseweed. Adults drink nectar from flowers. All butterflies undergo a complete metaphormosis, or change from one form to another.

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YOUR VERY HUNGRY CATERPILLAR

Your caterpillar will spend about a week in its caterpillar form. You don’t need to feed it or give it water- it comes with all the food it needs. Keep it at room temperature, away from sunlight or cold air. As much as we want to look at our caterpillar, try not to open the lid too much- you risk it falling out, and this can let in germs that might make your caterpillar sick. It will shed its skin several times before it turns into a chrysalis, getting bigger and bigger each time.

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SETTING UP YOUR BUTTERFLY BOX

Meanwhile, you’ll need to prepare a butterfly box. When your butterfly comes out of its chrysalis, it needs space for its wings to develop properly. If the butterfly “hatches” while in the cup, its wings will be deformed and it won’t be able to fly.

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Use a shoebox or similar-sized container. If you have netting or screen-type material, use that to cover the open end. If you don’t have netting, simply cover the opening with plastic wrap or cut a Ziploc bag to fit, then poke a few holes in for air. Place a twig or stick in the box- your butterfly will need to climb up something, and then hang upside down while it pumps body fluid into its wings to expand them.

You can also use “bug houses” like the one shown below. Again, place a stick inside to give it a place to hang upside down when the butterfly emerges.

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THE CHRYSALIS

After about a week, your caterpillar will stop eating, climb to the top of the cup, and form into a chrysalis. Yay, this means that it is one step closer to becoming a butterfly!

Do not handle or try to move the chrysalis for at least 24 hours after this change!
After 24 hours, gently remove the coffee filter/chrysalis and tape securely halfway up the side of your butterfly box. Note: If your chrysalis is not attached to the coffee filter, just put it on the bottom of your box. Again, be very careful and gentle when handling the chrysalis.

Look at the photo of the butterfly box above- you can see the paper with the chrysalis attached that is taped halfway up the side of the container.

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A BUTTERFLY IS BORN

After a few days in chrysalis form, your butterfly will emerge! Watch as its wings go from small, soft, and crumpled to strong and flat.

If you’d like to keep it in your container for a few days, you’ll want to feed it. You can mix equal parts brown sugar and water, then dip a cotton ball into this and place it in your butterfly box. You can also give it slices of juicy fruit like oranges or watermelon! If you have a small spray bottle, mist the box gently once a day
 with water. Make sure that the spray bottle you use is clean and has no chemicals in it.

It will live 2-4 weeks in its adult form as a butterfly. You can keep it in your container with food the whole time, or you may choose to release it. If you’d like to release it, wait at least 24 hours for your butterfly’s wings to harden, and release it on a nice, sunny afternoon. Good bye and good luck, butterfly!

IS MY BUTTERFLY BLEEDING?

Many people are alarmed to see red liquid coming from their butterfly when it first emerges from its chrysalis- don’t worry, that’s not blood! The red liquid is called meconium and is stored waste from when the butterfly is in its chrysalis form.

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IS MY BUTTERFLY A BOY OR A GIRL?

Good question! Male butterflies have a skinny abdomen (the last part of an insect body), while females have a more plump and round one. Of course, it can be hard to tell unless you have several butterflies to compare.

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BUTTERFLIES NEED OUR HELP!

Butterflies are being harmed due to loss of habitat (living spaces) and certain chemicals that people use in their gardens. Think about adding a few butterfly-friendly plants to your garden. A good list is found HERE on the Monarch Butterfly Garden website. Also, plants that we consider “weeds” are often food for butterflies, so leave them some weeds! Finally, insecticide sprays used to control mosquitoes or other garden pests can be harmful to all insects, so limit use if possible. Your new butterfly friends will thank you!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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