Congratulations on receiving your Painted Lady Butterfly kit! We are excited and grateful to share this experience with you and hope the following instructions will help guide you through the process.
The life cycle and metamorphosis of these majestic insects is a delicate one, however, their presence in our environment is of the utmost importance. Please take note of the instructions below to ensure the successful release of your butterflies. Additional information can be found on our blog and FAQs.
When your caterpillars first arrive, safely inspect your package to ensure there is no physical damage to the package. Please take pictures of any damage you may notice.
Open the box and remove the contents, carefully placing the caterpillar cups on a clean, flat, room-temperature surface, free of any chemical cleaners or other unnatural substances. Do not place them in direct sunlight (e.i. window sill).
Each plastic cup provided has a tissue paper liner beneath the lid with a single caterpillar contained inside. At the bottom of each cup there is an artificial diet that if exposed to room environments will dry out and become inedible for the caterpillars. Throughout the growth process, please keep the lids closed with the tissue paper liner in place. Also, do not combine any caterpillars into a single container, as this will dry out their artificial diet as well.
Carefully inspect the lid of the cup to ensure there are 1-2 tiny holes for airflow. If for some reason you do not see these holes, please use a needle smaller than the caterpillar to make these holes to ensure they do not escape. Although there is enough air for the caterpillars to survive, these tiny holes provide additional circulation.
As the caterpillars consume the artificial diet, they will produce yellow/brown balls known as frass (caterpillar waste). Furthermore, the caterpillars will generate some webbing to move around the cup. Every 3 days, carefully remove the lid and using the provided caterpillar cleaning and hygiene brush, delicately clean out the loose frass and webbing. You can also use a Q-tip in place of the hygiene brush.
Caterpillars have 5 stage growth cycles, known as instars; each instar is indicated by skin shedding. Their shedded skin will appear as small black curled or balled pieces. These pieces must also be cleaned out in the same manner as the frass and web.
Throughout the growth process, you may notice the tissue paper liner become wet from condensation or it may develop rips for some reason. In that event, please replace it with tissue paper or paper towel.
The caterpillar will consume all the food on its own, without any help, until it reaches the chrysalis stage, also known as the pupa stage. Most commonly, it is confused with the term cocoon (the term for moths), however, butterflies make pupas. Although it may seem as though the caterpillars are running low on their artificial diet, it has been carefully measured, and when low, it means they are close to the chrysalis stage. When a caterpillar generates a small red ball, it means they are ready to pupate and are done consuming their artificial diet.
The paper liner is in place for the caterpillar to pupate and to hang from using webs they create. 24-48 hours after the caterpillar pupates and hardens, carefully remove the lid of the cup; the caterpillar should be attached to the paper liner. Then, remove the paper liner and tape it to the roof of the net cage, suspending the chrysalis for hatching.
There may be a possibility that the pupa forms directly on the lid or on the floor of the cup, which is fine. In this case, the pupa can be transferred using the “string method”. For detailed instructions on the “string method”, please visit our video gallery.
It is perfectly normal for the caterpillars to develop into pupae at different times. Within 24-48 hours of moving into the chrysalis stage, move the pupa into the net cage; they do not need to all be moved at the same time. Before moving the caterpillars into the net cage, line the bottom of the cage with paper towel to protect it from the natural excrement described below.
Temperature dependent, the pupa generally hatches in 10-12 days; the pupa requires no assistance during this process. When emerging, butterflies expel a red liquid called meconium, which is the leftover part of the caterpillar that was not needed to make the butterfly. This meconium is stored in the intestine of the butterfly and is expelled after the butterfly emerges. This usually takes a few minutes, and once completed, any access will be excreted from the butterfly and will drop to the bottom of the cage.
In the wild, painted lady butterflies have a short lifespan of approximately two weeks. This lifespan is shortened if they remain in the net cages after hatching. We encourage you to release the butterflies within 1-3 days of hatching, weather permitting.
For further information on feeding the butterflies and the best conditions for release, we have created a specific blog related to these topics with more in depth information. If you feel something is missing from this blog entry or any other, please write to us so we may update our content accordingly.
Thank you for carefully reading and following these instructions to ensure the healthy development and metamorphosis. In the wild, for every 100 butterfly eggs laid, only 1 reaches the butterfly stage. It is through our experience and following the kit instructions that we have a near perfect success rate. Despite the near perfect success rate, we acknowledge that not all butterflies will emerge in perfect form, and may have developmental issues including deformities and in rare occasions, death. This happens commonly in the wild, however, it is rare to see when raised in an enclosure. This critical part of the very often fragile butterfly life cycle should be included in all educational materials being used in conjunction with our kits, including the possibility of expiration.
Our FAQ and blog are constantly being updated to provide the most updated information on the proper care and expected development of the butterflies. We encourage you to share any pictures, videos, or notes on your experience so we may share it with all others who may be facing something similar.
Again, we thank you for choosing to raise and release butterflies and joining this ever growing community of people helping this important cause.