How to Raise Butterflies at Home
You can watch their metamorphosis from egg, caterpillar, chrysalis, and butterfly.
The awe of seeing a butterfly never goes away. In fact, there are approximately 20,000 species of butterflies in the world, and the United States of America has around 525 butterflies that reside in the lower 48 states. Your hometown might even have its own native butterfly species that regularly calls it home, especially in the spring and summer months. These insects begin as caterpillars and metamorphose into the beautiful winged creatures that pollinate in our gardens, but you don't have to sit around and wait for them to come to you; you can actually raise butterflies at home.
Choose the right kind of butterfly.
Fran LeMasters, owner of All A Flutter Butterflies in Northeast Ohio, recommends connecting with a butterfly breeder in your region. You want to make sure to raise butterflies that are native to your state and not to introduce an invasive species. Monarchs are a common butterfly across all of the United States, but other types of butterflies may not normally be found in your state. You can search for certified breeders by visiting the International Butterfly Breeders Association website and looking up local breeders. "This may be the easiest way to begin raising butterflies because you can get kits that give you everything you need to get started and that come with instructions," LeMasters explains. "You would get a cup that has a caterpillar in it and some food."
Grow a garden of their favorite plants.
Some species of butterflies, like the Painted Lady, can survive on an artificial diet like ground mallow plants. Monarch butterflies, however, need to have access to living milkweed plants in order to thrive. Incorporate your butterfly's host plants (the food that it craves) in your garden. "You would place the monarch caterpillars on the plant and cover it with netting [if you are raising indoors]," she says. "This will keep the caterpillars from crawling away." The netting also gives them something to climb when they are ready to form a chrysalis for the next stage of their life. You can also purchase pre-made butterfly habitats that you can have in your house or as part of your garden. You will need caterpillars, a habitat with netting, and proper food supply.
Butterflies can be raised in the spring and summer. But when fall comes around, be prepared to let your butterflies out into the world. Butterflies migrate in the colder months and travel to warmer places. Your garden could attract butterflies back to your home in the spring if you offer plenty of their host plants and nectar-producing flowers. "Butterflies are like bees," LeMasters says. "They will go where the food is."