Butterfly Questions

Answers in the Category "Butterfly Questions"

Click here for Insect Lore Butterfly Kit Instructions

Yes. Look carefully and you will see there are tiny holes punched into the lid of the cup.

No. Removing the lid could introduce bacteria and mold into the caterpillar environment. Oils and salts from your hands could harm your caterpillars. Do not open the cup until your chrysalides have formed and it is time to move them to your butterfly habitat.

If your caterpillars turn red and begin to disintegrate, they have been infected with the bacteria, Serratia Marcescens. This bacterium occurs if condensation has been allowed to form in the cup. Always keep your Cup of Caterpillars away from windows and out of direct sunlight. Sunlight will cause the inside of the cup to heat up and form condensation. 

It is a good sign if you see webbing in your cup of caterpillars. The webbing protects the caterpillars from many dangers. Caterpillars use the webbing to stick to their host plants, as the wind can easily blow them off the leaves. Caterpillars also use the silk to pull leaves around themselves to hide from predators that might like to eat them!

Those little balls are “frass”, or caterpillar waste. It means your caterpillars are healthy - and are eating and growing!

Five times! Your caterpillars will shed their exoskeletons four times while they are eating and growing.  They shed once more after they have attached themselves to the lid of the cup, just before they pupate.

When your caterpillars crawl to the top of the cup, they are ready to pupate (become chrysalides).  Do not disturb the chrysalides for 3 days. After 3 days you can move them to your habitat.

A chrysalis is a pupa. When a caterpillar changes into a chrysalis, it is “pupating”.  Chrysalides are always bare.  A cocoon does not surround them.

Wait a full three days for your chrysalides to harden. Remove the lid of your cup. Your chrysalides should be attached to the lid of the cup. Carefully remove all silk and frass that surrounds the chrysalides with a cotton swab. Next, insert the entire lid with the chrysalides attached into the slot in your Chrysalis Holding Log.Place the Log (holding the lid with the chrysalides attached) on the floor of the habitat, close to the inside wall of the habitat.

Approximately 3 weeks. Females lay eggs 5 to 7 days after emerging from the chrysalis. The eggs hatch after three days. Caterpillars emerge from the eggs and eat for 10 to 12 days before forming chrysalides. Adult butterflies emerge from the chrysalides in 7 to 10 days.

It is the remains of the last exoskeleton shed by your caterpillar before pupating, or changing into a chrysalis.

Gently scoop your chrysalis out of the cup with a plastic spoon. Be sure to remove all of the silk and frass surrounding the chrysalis with a cotton swab. Then lay the chrysalis on a piece of paper towel on the floor of your Butterfly Garden Habitat. Try to position the chrysalis near the inside mesh wall of the habitat. The butterfly will emerge there safely and then will climb up the wall of the habitat to hang, stretch, and dry its wings.

This is a natural instinct to ward off predators. If a chrysalis feels threatened, it will begin to wiggle and shake.

The caterpillar parts are liquefying and re-arranging to become the cells, tissues and organs of the butterfly. In a few days, you will be able to see the outline of the wings of the butterfly beneath the pupal shell!

No need to worry! Your butterflies will expel a red liquid called meconium. This is a completely natural occurrence. Meconium is the leftover part of the caterpillar that was not needed to make the butterfly. This is stored in the intestine of the butterfly and expelled after the butterfly emerges.

Did you know that by releasing Painted Lady butterflies, you are helping to pollinate our world? There is still a lot of work to be done, though. Pollinators need our help. Visit our friends at Pollinator Partnership to find out what you can do!

Tiny drops of meconium may fall to the floor of the habitat after your butterflies hatch out of the chrysalides. Place a paper or cloth towel under the habitat to ensure that the meconium will not stain your furniture.

“Imago” is another word for “adult”.

Because of their egg mass, females have a larger, more rounded abdomen than males. Look at your butterflies from above. The male butterfly’s abdomen has straight sides, while the female’s abdomen is curved.

Caterpillars love to eat thistle, hollyhock, fiddleneck, and malva. Be sure the leaves are pesticide-free and place them near your caterpillars in your habitat. It’s best to release your butterflies before egg laying begins. Caring for all the caterpillars that hatch from the eggs would be a very big job!

Release your butterflies within a week after they have emerged from their chrysalides.

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Adult butterflies typically live for 2 to 4 weeks during the warm parts of the year. During that time they will feed, mate, lay eggs, and begin the amazing butterfly life cycle, or metamorphosis, all over again!

Release your butterflies when daytime temperatures are at least 55 degrees and below 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Butterflies need this warmth to fly, feed, mate and pollinate.

Painted Lady Butterflies are found almost everywhere! They are native to Canada, the United States, Europe, Asia, Africa and even Iceland!

Look for Painted Lady Butterflies in sunny meadows, parks, marshes and yards.

Fill a small tub or sink with warm water and add a drop of mild dishwashing detergent. Swish the habitat in the soapy water. Rinse. Hang the habitat to dry and it will be ready for more caterpillar friends!

Yes! Click here to order an Insect Lore Cup of Caterpillars.

Your caterpillars are shipped with more than enough food to develop into healthy adults. If the food appears to be running low, it is a sign that your caterpillars will be close to pupating.

Your caterpillars are roughly the same age. This last caterpillar just might need a little more time to ingest enough nutrients to make the transformation. Just give him a little more time.

Sometimes chrysalides form on the side or bottom of the cup. This tends to happen when a caterpillar knocks down other caterpillars on its way to the top of the cup. If the fallen caterpillars don’t have time to climb to the top again they will form into chrysalides where they have fallen. If this happens, wait for the chrysalides to fully form. After 3 days, gently scoop them up with a plastic spoon, remove all of the silk and frass with a Q-tip, and lay them on a paper towel at the bottom of your habitat.

Here are some important tips: Monitor the weather conditions in your local area; the ideal daytime temperatures to receive your caterpillars are above 55 and below 90 degrees Fahrenheit.Try to have your caterpillars sent to an indoor mailbox, where temperatures are controlled, rather than to an outdoor mailbox, where temperatures can be extreme. Do not leave your Cup of Caterpillars unattended in a mailbox. Be aware if your package’s destination has been sprayed for insects. Do not expose your caterpillars to dramatic changes in temperature. If temperatures vary greatly from daytime to nighttime, place a towel over the Cup of Caterpillars  in the evening. Do not place your Cup of Caterpillars in a window or in direct sunlight. Try to be as gentle as possible whenever you handle your Cup of Caterpillars - and when you transfer your chrysalides to the habitat. Be sure to remove all silk and frass from the chrysalides before transferring them to the butterfly habitat. If this step is ignored, the butterfly may become entangled in the silk upon emergence, resulting in deformed wings and death.

It may look like your butterfly only has four legs, but it really has six! The last set of your butterfly’s legs is tucked up high on the thorax and is very easily overlooked.

Butterflies are insects, and all insects have six legs.


Butterflies love to feed on the nectar of flowers. They also love to feed on slices of oranges and watermelon. And, of course, your butterflies will feed on the sugar water (nectar) you place in their habitat!

Your butterflies might not immediately fly around in their habitat. They will show off their flying abilities when it is time to release them!

Insect Lore recommends that you release your butterflies well before they start to mate and reproduce (within a week after emergence). The optimum time to release your butterflies is within three to four days of emergence. 

No, we only provide the Painted Lady butterfly. We chose the Painted Lady butterfly because it is a hardy butterfly and is found all over the world. When you release the Painted Lady butterfly, you can be assured that you will not be interfering with its migration patterns (like you would with other butterflies). The Painted Lady is also a beneficial pollinator and is helpful to our environment.

The undersides of your Painted Lady Butterfly wings are “marble-colored”, which provides the butterflies with a natural camouflage from predators.  When the butterflies open their wings they exhibit the gorgeous orange, brown and black colors the Painted Lady is known for. These bright colors are also a warning to predators.

Like all insects, butterflies are cold-blooded. On cooler days, butterflies must warm their flight muscles in a sunny spot before they can fly. If a butterfly has to sit still for long, it may be vulnerable to a predator.

The Painted Lady Butterfly is native to almost every continent except Antarctica and South America. It can be released safely anywhere in the United States.

The new caterpillars might find this food objectionable as it has been contaminated by the prior residents’ frass and nitrogenous waste (urine). Insect Lore does not recommend that you reuse this food once the original caterpillars have pupated.

The scientific name of the Painted Lady butterfly is Vanessa Cardui.

Yes! You may handle your cup, but always be very gentle. Do not disturb the cup at all during the three days your caterpillars are pupating (changing into chrysalides). And never shake your cup of caterpillars!

If you have hatched both male and female butterflies, chances are they will mate and lay eggs if you do not release them within the recommended time. Insect Lore recommends that you release your butterflies within a week after emergence. Your butterflies would likely lay too many eggs for you to take care of.

The butterfly feeds upon nectar with its elongated proboscis. The proboscis acts as a tube through which the butterfly sips its food. The proboscis remains curled up until it is time to eat.

All insects are coldblooded, unlike birds and mammals that maintain a constant high temperature. A butterfly vibrates its wings to increase the metabolic rate within its thoracic (wing) muscles. This activity warms the wing muscles, enabling the butterfly to fly away at a moment’s notice!

It takes about an hour for the butterfly’s wings to fully form and harden.

When you transfer your chrysalides from the cup to the habitat, it is of utmost importance that you gently remove any silk or frass that may surround the chrysalides. If the silk and frass is not removed at this time, your butterfly may actually become entangled in the silk when it emerges from the chrysalis. This entanglement may result in deformed wings.

Some butterflies, like Monarchs and Painted Ladies, migrate to warmer climates. Those that do not migrate often find niches or microclimates in which to shelter during the intense cold. One winter, our entomologist turned over a rock and found a butterfly beneath it. The butterfly was so cold it could hardly move!  But the underside of the rock was an excellent place for the butterfly to survive. On sunny winter days, the rock was warmed by the sun and maintained its warmth even during the cold evenings. The ground beneath the rock was also warmer than the ambient air temperatures. Add to this the fact that insect bodies also contain glycols (which lower their freezing temperature) and you have a great chance of winter survival!

Yes! Like all insects, a butterfly has three body parts: head, thorax and abdomen, three pairs of jointed legs, one pair of antennae and an exoskeleton.

To make nectar to feed to your butterflies, thoroughly mix 3 teaspoons of sugar with 1 cup of water. 

The Painted Lady Butterfly is nicknamed the "Thistle Butterfly" because it loves to feed on the nectar of thistles.

A group of butterflies is also called a "swarm," "rabble,"  "kaleidoscope," or "flutter of butterflies."

“Larva” is another word for “caterpillar”!

No. Your caterpillars arrive with all the food they need to grow into healthy butterflies. Once your butterflies have emerged from the chrysalis stage, feed them with fruit, nectar (sugar water), or nectar bearing flowers.

No. Your caterpillars have all the moisture they need. Remember to keep your cup of caterpillars away from direct sunlight. Direct sunlight will cause the inside of the cup to heat up and form condensation. This condensation can cause your caterpillars to sicken and die.

Like you, caterpillars need to rest and digest their food. But just wait! Your caterpillars will become more and more active as they eat the food at the bottom of the cup. Eating and growing is what they do best!

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