Have you ever wondered how something so tiny can turn into something so beautiful? A butterfly starts its journey in the humblest of ways. It starts out as a tiny egg that with the naked eye would be easily missed. In that egg resides the genetic make up for what will one day be a butterfly. We all have to start somewhere, right?
Butterfly raising is a journey. It can be frustrating at times, but oh so delightful if you stick with it. Like a caterpillar, you devour books and information to care for your precious soon to be butterflies. The metamorphosis takes place as you apply your knowledge and then that knowledge allows all those once distant dreams to take flight.
What came first the egg or the butterfly? Well, in this case it all starts with a fertilized egg from a mother butterfly. This female Gulf Fritillary is curling up her abdomen and depositing a egg on her host plant passionvine.
For starts with butterfly gardening you are going to need flowers and lots of them. Be diverse and imaginative. Be observant. And lastly, learn to be flexible because butterfly raising can be unpredictable.
Next, you are going to need host plants. A host plant is what a female butterfly will lay eggs on. Each butterfly has specific plants she will lay eggs on. For example a Monarch (pictured below) will only lay eggs on Milkweed (pictured above). There are more than one kind of Milkweed that the Monarchs will lay on. The variety above is tropical milkweed that will grow happily in Florida and in the north can be grown as an annual. Milkweeds also make great nectar sources for a large number of butterflies including the skipper which is pictured above. If you are keen on going native, Common Milkweed is native to much of the eastern United States, but be fore warned that it does not transplant well.
Now, the moment you’ve been waiting for. How exactly do you raise a caterpillar into a butterfly? For starts you are going to need a “home” for your just hatched caterpillar. I’ve used everything from peanut containers to salad containers. Caterpillars need to breathe so to solve that I cut a rectangle in the lid and then glued window screening over it. Just be sure the holes are small enough so the caterpillars don’t escape.
Caterpillars need food and lots of it! Be prepared for some mega munching machines. These Black Swallowtails will gladly dine on parsley, dill, fennel, and carrots which have given them a bad name. They have been called “The Parsley Worm.” I scrunch my nose at such a name. They are butterflies thank you very much! That “parsley worm” turns into the beautiful butterfly happily resting on my face below.
Butterflies in their teenage stage (caterpillar) are sure to make you smile from time to time. This is the rear end of a Black Swallowtail caterpillar that has a surprising resemblance to a frowning face!
When the caterpillar has reached its full size and guzzled up a lot of food, it will find a place to hang and make a chrysalis. This Monarch caterpillar has attached itself with silk to the lid of my rearing container.
The caterpillar sheds off its exoskeleton and underneath is a gem known as a chrysalis. Inside the caterpillar will turn into a butterfly. It will stay inside 10 – 14 days, but this can vary by species. Ten to fourteen days is the average length for a Monarch to emerge.
I’ve labeled for you the cremaster which is attached to the silk piece that the caterpillar spun before making the chrysalis.
And then one day, you notice a change. You see crystal clear the pattern of butterfly wings! The chrysalis can no longer hide the butterfly that is waiting to burst forth in a glorious display. All that remains is the rays of sun to heat up the chrysalis and give it energy to push open the chrysalis “door.”
And there you have it. A beautiful Monarch butterfly!
I hope you loved this how to style entry on how to raise butterflies. Check back in a couple of weeks to read more of my adventures. My life is an adventure so who knows what I will write about next.
To support my work you can purchase a copy of my book or simply click the “like” button at the following link. In my book you will learn about the life cycles of 10 common butterfly species through pictures and facts. You will also learn more about how to raise butterflies plus several butterfly garden and conservatory tours. It is a great resource for teachers and includes activity pages that can be copied for classrooms. https://www.createspace.com/4083202