raising butterflies

Not exactly a craft, but I did have to be a little crafty and there is some creation to it… eh, whatevs, it’s my blog.


M got a really fun gift for her fourth birthday: a butterfly garden. It’s basically a kit to raise Painted Lady butterflies. We sent away for our caterpillars and even though M liked the whole experience, I think the ideas of raising butterflies really piqued my interest. So much so that after the first generation of butterflies, we kept the first set long enough for them to lay eggs, bought  hollyhock plant and raised a second generation. Here is our journey: 

Our first generation of butterflies mated and I bought them a hollyhock plant on which to lay eggs. 

Butterflies getting busy.

Eggs laid on a hollyhock plant. So teensy weensy that I missed them for the first few days they had been laid.

Tiny blue stripey eggs.

As the eggs matured, they turned black, right before they hatched.

Black eggs, which, interestingly enough, were clear when vacated. Makes sense, but it was cool to see the clear casings of former caterpillar eggs.

and then these teensy weensy little caterpillars hatched. 

Teeny weeny.

We kept them housed in a salad container (the kind you buy salad greens in). There must have been about 100 of them. Apparently, you can keep the lid on all the time because the caterpillars don’t breathe the same way people do, but I wanted to make sure no mold started growing, so i obsessively opened the lid at least twice a day to kinda air out the box. I don’t know if it made much difference but in my mind, it made it more “natural” (as if a plastic salad container home could ever be “natural,” even if they were organic salad greens) everyone in there seemed to be ok… until…

I tried to put in some common mallow from my backyard in addition to the hollyhock they had to feed on. MAJORLY sad, because although I hadn’t forgotten that we had had the exterminator in our backyard for some pest control, I was pretty sure she said she didn’t spray the middle of the yard, just the edges. I got my mallow from the middle of the yard but apparently it was contaminated (I even washed it). The next morning I had 5 caterpillars left out of 100 and it looked like a massacre with all these little caterpillar bodies strewn about! Crappy as losing 95% of my ‘pillars was, this was good/bad. Bad because most of them bit it 🙁 but good because I had NO idea how I was going to feed 100 hungry caterpillars. It ended up only costing me the rest of the hollyhock to feed them because in the end, three more caterpillars naturally died on their own (I swear it was on their own!). So then there were two. 

I failed to get pictures of the larger two caterpillars ‘cause I kept saying I would and that I had plenty of time, but they had the last laugh as they recently they turned into chrysalises. Here is one of them (the second one to turn, which means I’m majorly lame for not taking a picture of him after the first one turned): 

The first used a hollyhock branch to make its chrysalis. Apparently, this guy thought it was better to use the container lid.

And today, the first Painted Lady (or Painted Dude, I don’t know how to figure out the sex of butterflies) of our second generation emerged. I have yet to take pictures but this is a parent of his, and, naturally,  it looks just like him: 

Glad to get the heck out of Dodge (ie, the Butterfly Garden)

One more guy/Lady to hatch. Raising them has been fun, but a little stressful as far as food (it’s like these little caterpillars were eating themselves out of house and salad container) and sad ‘cause they kept dropping like flies (butterflies?) before I had my last two left. 


On a side note, my hollyhock plant came with a stow away from the nusery. This guy: 

Green body, little black head.

A ton of research on this particular green body/black head combo and I thought I either had an ugly fly larvae, a gross looking moth of some sort or a white checkered skipper butterfly. Figuring my odds were decent (eh, 33%), I kept him in his own little tupperware container (a tiny one) and fed him a few leaves. he soon made his chrysalis too (which, of course, i never took a picture of, thinking I had plenty of time) and honestly it looked like it was dried up and dead, so I thought nothing would come of that chrysalis but it did! and I beat the odds. White checkered skipper it was! 

Disregard my less than appealing arm, and look at the tiny skipper.

Wings spread sunning himself.

He was so cute and little and we had him for a week until this morning when we were about to release him and found him “sleeping” on the floor of our butterfly garden thinger 🙁 Unfortunately, not deader than a doornail, but on his way to pound on the pearly gates, I took pity on Skipper and stuck him in my freezer to euthanize him. This is my little frozen skipper (you can see his pretty little wings here):

Goodbye, dear Skipper, thanks for the week.

And then, never letting death gross me out too much, I decided he would join our butterfly collection (we have various dried and mounted butterfly specimens) and stuck a pin through his little body, and, with my faithful internet helper, figured out how to pin him so that I can later mount him in a shadowbox as a tribute to his brave, albeit short, life: 

Skipper, pinned.

and thus (almost) concludes my butterfly raising for the summer. I still have that one guy in the chrysalis, waiting to come out. 

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