I started raising butterflies as a classroom teacher of young children many years ago. My students were enthralled with the process of watching the caterpillars grow and turn into butterflies.
The look of sheer joy on their faces when we released our butterflies, watched them flutter their wings, and take off for the first time was delightful to behold. Maybe these young children saw the parallels in their own lives.
For 10 years, I have offered Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui) Butterfly Caterpillar Rearing Kits online. It’s probably the easiest and most hassle-free way to rear a butterfly because all one does is observe the caterpillars without having to clean the cup or to add any leaves. The kits are self-contained environments.
The caterpillars climb to the top of the cup and attach themselves to the paper disk so they can pupate. Once that happens, the paper disk can be removed along with the chrysalises and placed inside a butterfly habitat for continued observation. Once the butterflies emerge, they can be kept inside the habitat for a few days and then released or released that very day.
The kits are made using clear plastic cups. An artificial diet is poured into the cups. Once the food has dried, a filter and a lid go on the top to keep the food from drying out. Each cup has six newly hatched caterpillars inside a smaller cup with enough food to nourish them during the first week. The smaller cup allows the caterpillars to travel safely during shipping.
The two cups are packaged in a box along with instructions, a paintbrush that is used to transfer the caterpillars to the larger cup, and a pushpin to place holes in the top of the larger cup.