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raising butterflies

Posted on Jul 4, 2013 by in LEARN | 4 comments

We were having lunch when suddenly the kids yelled ‘there’s a butterfly!’

A beautiful orange, black and white butterfly was happily dancing amongst our baby citrus trees. It stayed for a long time so we went to take a closer look.  Quickly, we discovered that she was busily laying eggs on all of our citrus trees !! Inches away we could see the egg popping out as she laid it in her carefully chosen leaf.

The eggs were extremely small and a semi-translucent gold color. It took her a while but there must have been dozens of eggs. Remembering our Insect Lore Butterfly Garden from last year’s life science project – we assembled it outside on a hanging olive tree branch. This was super exciting because these were wild eggs – not just something we bought online!

‘Pebbles’ researched how to create a nice habitat for butterfly eggs so we then carefully placed some branches inside of the net house. The eggs needed to be placed on the leaves on which they were laying undisturbed on the bottom floor.  We were to mist the leaves daily. In about 2 weeks baby caterpillars had hatched !!


Newborn caterpillar is near the tip of the leaf – so tiny!

The baby caterpillars set to work immediately on EATING the egg casing from which they burst out of.

After that, they would begin their constant devouring of the leaf itself. Daily we would continue misting and adding in fresh new leaves. Our research showed that we had to use the EXACT tree’s leaves only or they would not survive.

I learned that it was probably best to leave the eggs on the actual trees and just wait…. we’d have lost less leaves that way I bet because with the dry heat here where we live the leaves had to be replenished faster than had they just remained on the living tree. *A lesson for next year if the butterflies return!*


Adding fresh citrus leaves into the butterfly habitat daily


Slowly, they grew and grew. Yes, some did sadly die…. and some, I think, might have eaten each other?! One caterpillar grew VERY large and healthy indeed – he might have been the hungry one. 😉

Looked online to figure out which butterfly species these might have been – possibly the Giant Swallowtail butterfly that commonly likes to eat leaves of citrus trees? It’s astonishing that there are so many different butterflies and that each species’ caterpillar form is SO different from one another. Truly beautiful. The Painted Ladies that we had purchased looked NOTHING like these caterpillars – even though they both would be orange, black-brown and white butterflies.

We enjoyed watching them grow and some began to climb up the tree branches as we got excited to wake up to possible cocoons….

WHAT ?! They had escaped !!! Seriously.

We could have sworn we zipped it up all the way, but we were being so gentle as to not jiggle them too much that perhaps we left a gap?

* sigh *

This was a very good lesson.  We learned that really, God didn’t intend for us to raise such wild creatures necessarily…. nature and their instincts would have taken care of everything to perfection. It was humbling to say the least as we put in a large effort to keep them happy. 😉

Next Spring – they can have the trees.




** UPDATE SPRING 2014 **

THEY ARE BACK! Except…. not just the orange ones, but some yellow and black butterflies too. We watched them lay TONS of eggs on our trees again. We left them alone, and none survived to cocoon stage. Perhaps we’ll try ‘saving’ the eggs again in 2015 and make sure they don’t escape too early ?!?




  1. I did some research and I think it was a butterfly migrating from northern South America

  2. THE BUTTERFLY CAME BACK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  3. …and it left one minute later



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