How would your child like to keep a butterfly as a pet? Create a habitat for a butterfly right in your own home, backyard, or enclosed patio, and your child can enjoy butterflies coming and going all day long! This is actually a simple project that's easy to maintain. It just takes a little patience and some butterfly knowledge to make this real-life science experiment a success.
What You Need:
- Netting (indoors only), such as a piece of tight knit mesh or a net colander from a discount shop
- Flat, plastic or wooden tray around 2' x 2' feet (indoors only)
- Butterfly larvae (available at pet stores) or caterpillars (Note: if this is an indoor habitat, it must include caterpillar or larvae)
- Flowers native to your area
- Small plastic dish
- Manure (optional)
- Access to the Internet or library
What You Do:
- First, decide on the location of your butterfly habitat. If you have a nice, sunny location outdoors, this should be your first choice. If you will be creating an indoor habitat, make sure you choose a safe location near a window that gets a good amount of sunshine.
- Butterflies are easy to attract, as long as you know what they like to eat. If you would like to attract butterflies, you will need to provide nectar plants (listed below).
- Help your child to do a little research on which butterflies are native to your region. A book from the library or an Internet search can reveal this information easily.
- Next, set up your habitat. For indoors, lay a flat surface board in the size of 2' x 2'.
- Lay down twigs, leaves, and a small plastic dish with a few drops of water.
- Place a few mounds of dirt, with a bit of water on each mound to make it muddy, in different spots around the habitat.
- Mold netting to a pyramid shape for a cover.
- Add larvae or butterflies and watch your habitat daily. Butterflies should lay eggs in and around mud mounds and larvae should go through the entire metamorphosis stage within the habitat.
- For outdoors, follow Step 4, excluding the netting part.
- Remember to replenish the food supply for your critters often so they can continue to get nutrition and grow. The indoor and outdoor habitat should get a sprinkling of water from time to time if the conditions are dry.
- Many butterfly species like these plants: butterfly bush, beauty bush, sunflowers, zinnias, snapdragons, lilacs, milk thistle.
- Larvae like leafy green vegetation.
- The body of a butterfly is divided into 3 main parts: thead, thorax (chest), and abdomen (bottom).
- Butterflies have 6 legs and 4 large, scaly wings.
- Butterflies go through four stages in life: egg, larvae (caterpillar), pupa (chrysalis), and butterfly.
- Butterflies live on nectar and pollen.
- There are over 28,000 species of butterflies in the world.
Alicia Danyali, BS Elementary Education, taught primary-level students for four years at the International School of Amsterdam, The Netherlands. The last four years of her teaching career, she taught at the Washington International School in Washington, D.C.