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The Life of a Butterfly

What an amazing life!  
  1. An adult butterfly lays an egg.
  2. The egg hatches into a caterpillar or larva.
  3. The caterpillar forms the chrysalis or pupa.
  4. The chrysalis matures into a butterfly.

the butterfly life cycle

To raise your own butterflies:

You need to find some eggs, some caterpillars or some pupa. Caterpillars live to eat, so you will need to have lots of fresh of plants particular to your type of caterpillar. Monarchs, for example live on milkweed.  To find the caterpillars you will have the best luck if you look in "host plants" that are native to your area.  To identify some of the common caterpillars, visit Caterpillars.
Spicebush Swallowtail
spicebush swallowtail
Black Swallowtail
black swallowtail
Fennel, parsley, dill
Luna Moth
luna moth
Keep your caterpillars in a well ventilated jar or aquarium.  Use cloth to cover the top of a jar, instead of a jar lid with poked holes (safety and air circulation).  
Keep your caterpillars well fed; they do not need extra water because they get enough from the plants they eat.  Caterpillars will starve to death before they will eat the wrong food, so make sure you have access to fresh food before you try to keep it.
Don't handle them too much. They are delicate and can get bacteria from your hands.
After the caterpillars form into a pupa, they will probably wait until spring to come out.  You can mist them occasionally to keep the area humid but don't get them too wet.
Allow enough room for the emerging butterfly to spread it's wings to dry.  If the pupa falls to the ground you will need to fix it (glue, string) onto a hanging stick so that it will survive.
The pupa will turn dark or clear before the butterfly emerges.
Provide sticks so the butterfly can climb up to dry it's wings in case it falls.  More butterfly care

Other Butterfly Facts

  • A butterfly is an insect of the Order Lepidoptera
  • The Old English word for butterfly was buttorfleoge apparently because butterflies were thought to steal milk. A similar word occurs in Dutch and German originating from the same belief. This is believed to have led to the evolution of its present name form - butterfly.
  • There are between 15,000 and 20,000 of butterflies worldwide.
  • Several species of butterflies need more sodium than provided by the nectar they drink from flowers. As such, they are attracted to the sodium in salt. As human sweat contains significant quantities of salt, they sometimes land on people.
  • Besides damp patches, some butterflies also visit dung, rotting fruit or carcasses to obtain the essential minerals that they need.
  • Butterflies sense the air for scents, wind and nectar using their antennae. The antennae come in various shapes and colours. The hesperids have a pointed angle or hook to the antennae.
  • Some butterflies, such as the Monarch butterfly butterfly, are Migratory.
  • Butterflies can see red, green, and yellow.
  • Some people say that when the black bands on the Woolybear caterpillar are wide, a cold winter is coming.
  • The top butterfly flight speed is 12 miles per hour. Some moths can fly 25 miles per hour!
  • Monarch butterflies journey from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico, a distance of about 2,000 miles, and return to the north again in the spring.
  • Butterflies cannot fly if their body temperature is less than 86 degrees.
  • Here is a page with more butterfly facts

Butterfly Indian Legend

According to an American Indian Legend -
If anyone desires a wish to come true they must first
capture a butterfly and whisper that wish to it.
Since a butterfly can make no sound, the butterfly can not reveal
the wish to anyone but the Great Spirit who hears and sees all.
In gratitude for giving the beautiful butterfly its freedom,
the Great Spirit always grants the wish.
So, according to legend, by making a wish and giving the butterfly its freedom,
the wish will be taken to the heavens and be granted.
We have gathered to grant this couple all our best wishes and are about to set these
butterflies free in trust that all these wishes will be granted.


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