Insect Lore Company History
Insect Lore was founded in California's San Joaquin Valley by Carlos White, an entomologist working with insects in the agricultural industry. In 1965, he was inspired to develop a kit that would allow people of all ages to witness the metamorphosis of real, live butterflies in their own homes or classrooms. It seemed like a great idea - but the key to its success would be to create a special recipe for caterpillar food. This would enable the caterpillars to eat and get enough nutrition to transform into healthy adult butterflies. How difficult could that be?
As the next three long years of trial and error proved, it was quite difficult indeed. Mr. White finally came up with a successful dietary formula for Painted Lady Butterfly caterpillars in 1969. It was then that The Butterfly Garden was born. The concept was simple but revolutionary at the time - a customer could purchase an educational kit that included a butterfly habitat and a certificate. The customer would then mail the certificate to Insect Lore's "butterfly nursery" and in return would receive live caterpillars. The caterpillars would be shipped to the customer in a special jar that included Mr. White's unique caterpillar food. Over a span of approximately three weeks the caterpillars would eat the food, change into chrysalides, and finally emerge as adult butterflies in The Butterfly Garden hatching box. After a few days of observation, the customers would experience the joy and wonder of setting the butterflies free.
The special caterpillar diet made all this possible, and the Insect Lore "Butterflies-By-Mail" magic began. The first Butterfly Garden Kits were wildly colored (this was the 60's, after all) and the habitat was a box with round plastic windows. Groovy!
Today, the Butterfly Garden includes a see-through reusable mesh habitat. 50 million caterpillars by mail later, however, Carlos White's original caterpillar diet remains the same. While Carlos has now retired, his son John operates Insect Lore USA in an enlarged facility in Shafter, California, complete with a Bugseum and visitor center. Carlos' daughter Jennifer is head of Insect Lore Europe, located in picturesque Cornwall, England. Painted Lady caterpillars travel from Cornwall to destinations throughout the United Kingdom and the European Union.
Insect Lore has expanded the insect lineup over the years as well. In addition to butterflies, Insect Lore offers Ant, Ladybug, Silkworm, Worm and Frog Kits, as well as bug catchers, keepers, viewers, and other exciting items for bug lovers.
Insect Lore and NASA
The July 23, 1999 launch of NASA’s Columbia Space Shuttle carried some unusual astronauts - Insect Lore Painted Lady Butterflies! Insect Lore partnered with a group working with NASA to put the winged creatures into orbit. Scientists wanted to determine if caterpillars would undergo metamorphosis in a zero-gravity environment. Would an adult butterfly form properly within its chrysalis without the aid of gravity to "pull" its parts into place?
Spacehab, the team NASA used to conduct living experiments on the space shuttle missions, approached John White at the National Science Teacher’s Convention. “When we were asked to be part of a shuttle launch and put some of the first butterflies into space,” John grinned, “we immediately said yes!”
The experiment began. A set of chrysalides were housed in a specially-designed habitat developed at the University of Colorado. Video feeds of the progress of the butterflies’ development were available via the Internet from spacehab.com, a website dedicated to the flight. A curriculum was developed with a high school near Atlanta and the students monitored the mission from their classroom.
The result? All of Insect Lore's butterflies successfully emerged aboard the Columbia - in fact, they hatched perfectly in orbit! The astronauts also got a kick out of watching them fly upside down in zero gravity. The butterflies and their habitat have been preserved and were placed on permanent display in Washington D.C. at the National Air and Space Museum on May 3, 2000.