Kids can observe the butterfly life cycle up close with a LIVE Butterfly Kit.
One popular one is from Insect Lore. As soon as the kit arrives, it comes with five, live baby caterpillars. Retail price is $27.99 and includes the caterpillars. You can also gift a kit without the butterflies (The Insect Lore Butterfly Kit with Voucher) for $24.99. The giftee then purchases a cup of caterpillars for $8. Alternatively, you can purchase a kit with more caterpillars (2 sets of 5) for $34.99.
- 5 baby painted lady caterpillars and nutritious food
- Pop-up, reusable 11.5 inch mesh habitat
- Deluxe Chrysalis Station
- Flower-shaped Butterfly Feeder
- Feeding dropper
- Caterpillar Quick Guide and insert with helpful caterpillar-raising tips.
Insect Lore guarantees that 3 out of 5 caterpillars will become butterflies, and the LIVE Butterfly Kit price includes shipping to the Continental United States. They also have ladybug, praying mantis, and ant kits as well.
Educational Insights has the GeoSafari Jr. Butterfly Bungalow. You buy the kit for $19.99 and the caterpillar shipping is about $9.
- Pop-up, reusable mesh habitat
- Deluxe Chrysalis Station
- Caterpillar Guide and insert with helpful caterpillar-raising tips.
- Magnifying Glass
- Must order baby painted lady caterpillar kit for shipping cost of $9 for 5 caterpillars. Delivered to Continental United States.
The Habitats are shaped differently and there is no feeding station or dropper with the Educational Insights Kit. There is no option to have the kit with the caterpillars included when buying the Educational Insight Kit. You have to order them separately and pay for the shipping.
Both habitats can fold for easy storage and have a handle for portability. We found that cleaning the habitats was easy after we released the butterflies, but just a bit easier with the Insect Lore station because of its round shape. We did prefer the colorful bottom on the Insect Lore Habitat vs. the white one of the Educational Insights kit. It is because when the caterpillars bleed when emerging from their transformation, you don’t see it as much with the darker Insect Lore base.
Regardless of the kit, the entire metamorphosis – from caterpillars to chrysalides to butterflies – takes about three weeks. After a few days in the butterfly form, kids can release them (as long as the temperature is between 55 degrees Fahrenheit and 90 degrees Fahrenheit) into their backyard, garden or local park.
Did We Like It?
My kids were absolutely enthralled with the whole kit and process. Watching the caterpillars crawling around the cup, getting bigger, and finally getting ready for their transformation. Needless to say, watching them evolve into butterflies and watching them up-close was a treat.
As a parent, I even enjoyed watching the process too. I saw something I have never seen – seeing their proboscis suck up the sugar water. We even a times gave a treat of a small Clementine wedge, which the Insect Lore kit says you can do.
I will say that you should not keep the butterflies in the habitat for more than a week. While they deserve to be free, you should know that you might have to answer why the butterflies “hug each other” and “why are their butts touching? questions.
One other thing to note, that when the butterflies are emerging from their cocoons, they bleed. So let little ones know that it is normal, and place a cloth or paper towel under the habitat before that stage. You’ll want to make sure it does not seep through the habitat fabric onto surfaces in your home.
When we released our butterflies, it was a special experience. I even felt as if one of the butterflies as it started to fly off, came back and hovered around me, as if to say thanks, before going into the world. The kids enjoyed having the butterflies sit on their finger before they flew off, which was a special experience. Lastly, we released them one week from the date of our dog’s death to honor her memory and life. It had very special meaning for us.
Fun Extra Things to Do
For older kids, give them a small notebook and have them either draw or write about their observations each day. What changed? What do they think is happening? The Insect Lore website has some great answers.
We also decided to name the caterpillars. Make it fun and have the kids come up with a list of names and have the family vote. Or put the names into a hat and pick five – one for each caterpillar.
When it is time to release them, have the kids make a wish on each butterfly so the butterfly can carry the wish. If you can time it correctly, having the butterflies on the table for a butterfly themed party is a blast and a great conversation starter for kids. Have table cards with fun facts about the butterflies, have a name contest, and at the end of the party, the guests can release the butterflies!
We also found that the habitats were large enough to let the butterflies fly, and stable on most surfaces. The carrying handle was helpful as the kids each wanted to have the butterflies sleep with them at night – so the habitat went back and forth.
After letting it dry, we stored it away for other use. Kids can collect insects they find in the yard for observation and release. Or for $18, we can order another cup of caterpillars from Insect Lore and use the habitat and accessories again! You have to spend $29 to purchase another full set from Educational Insights.
Another option is to gift the habitat and accessories to your child’s classroom. We did that and supported the teacher with a cup of caterpillars so the class could watch and learn about the butterfly life cycle too.
We thoroughly enjoyed the process, and look forward to doing it again and bringing more butterflies into the world!