I’ve always loved butterflies and teaching the girls the life cycle of a butterfly was seriously on like my top 10 reasons for homeschooling.
There are a million books, crafts and snacks having to do with the life cycle.
But actually watching one grow- that’s a little harder. Like A LOT harder than I thought it would be.
I was all, sure, let’s bring in some caterpillar eggs! Until NONE of them turned into a butterfly….cue new talk on death instead of a beautiful butterfly.
I bought milkweed plants from my local Lowe’s/ Home Depot and one more from my produce stand (which already had one caterpillar on it!)
I bought a mesh container for housing from Amazon, but for my first cats (butterfly lady speak for caterpillars), I used clear plastic cups from iced coffees, etc. and poked lots of holes in the top.
I have only collected (so far) much larger cats- they call them instars- 4th or 5th instars. They seem to be hardier.
I bring them in and put 2-3 milkweed leaves in with them to eat. Once they go through those, I clean out the frass (caterpillar poop) and give them new leaves.
Once they go into chrysalis (DON’T call it a cocoon!), ours eclosed right around 14 days.
After they came out, I waited 24 hours to release to make sure their wings were dry.
OH- and then there’s making sure the milkweed doesn’t get TAKEN OVER by aphids, aka disgusting yellow bugs that eat caterpillar eggs!
I’ve squished them (blech), sprayed the with water, insecticidal soap and in extreme cases (but also the most effective and quickest way), Sevin Dust. I’ve made sure there aren’t any cats on the plants when I use the Sevin.
I’ve also joined Facebook groups, where people have MUCH more experience than me and have been extremely helpful!