By contributing writer Colleen
Butterflies make for a fun spring and summer learning adventure, especially for little kids. Kids learn about the butterfly life cycle and how to care for a living organism. And you don’t have to worry about the upkeep long term. After a few weeks, you’re able to let the newly emerged insects go, and you can either start over again, or enjoy a pet-free break.
Over the years, my kids have raised several different species of butterfly. Painted lady butterflies are easily attainable (such as InsectLore brand) because they can be kept alive easily on a laboratory-created food source.
You can order a container that has several larvae and all the food they’ll need until they form their chrysalis. When they’re ready to turn into butterflies, they’ll crawl to the top of the container and attach themselves to the lid, forming their chrysalis in preparation for metamorphosis.
Kids can pop off the cardboard disk on the inside of the lid and gently transfer them into a larger container so they have room to fly when they emerge as newly formed butterflies.
If you decide to try raising butterflies, I hope you’ll download this fun printable coloring sheet for your little one to help them track their butterfly’s life cycle. They can just color it for fun, or color each stage in the cycle as it happens.
We’ve also raised monarch butterflies. Monarchs need milkweed in order to survive as caterpillars, so if, like us, you go hunting for monarch caterpillars, make sure you have access to a steady supply of milkweed leaves to feed them. Otherwise they’ll die. And they’re voracious eaters.
Alternately, you can go chrysalis hunting and bring (very carefully) some branches of milkweed that house a monarch chrysalis home. Put the branches in a jar to stabilize them, and place them in a large container or butterfly habitat.
I love monarchs because the green of the chrysalis edged in gold makes it look like a precious gemstone. And the butterflies that emerge are gorgeous.
This year, in addition to raising painted lady butterflies, we’ll be monarch hunting and tagging in partnership with Monarch Watch. Monarch Watch is a citizen science program that asks everyday people and groups of people to band together and help track monarch populations around the world.
I highly recommend getting your kids involved in citizen science programs like Monarch Watch if you can. It’s a great way to help them see that they can contribute and make a difference – even as kids.
Have you ever raised butterflies with your kids? What was your experience?