Raising Butterflies: The Ultimate Low Maintenance “Pet”

We can’t have pets. Simply put, my children sneeze, cough, and itch as soon as they are around any snuggly animal with fur. The problem with their allergies is that they want nothing more than to have a pet to love. My daughter recently tried to ask Santa for a kitten, thinking she had found a loophole. Since she had been so good all year, she assumed she would awaken Christmas morning to a new, purring friend.

The fact that I cannot let them have a pet weighs on my heart.

I have found my own loophole. Each spring we raise butterflies. While it isn’t a substitute for an actual pet, my kids still get to learn a lot of valuable lessons about caring for animals. We started doing this when my kids were just toddlers and they look forward to it each year.

pet butterflies

So what type of commitment is required to raise butterflies? Hardly none! The whole process from getting the caterpillars to butterflies emerging takes about a month. During the month, the kids get to learn about all of the different stages in becoming a butterfly. My children love this activity. I try to make sure they learn about the metamorphosis process along the way. We have read the following books throughout the years to make the experience more educational.

If you haven’t tried this activity, I HIGHLY encourage it. It really couldn’t be easier. There are several ways to get the caterpillars. We have purchased kits, which conveniently enough are available on Amazon. We also have several excellent nature stores in our area that carry the caterpillars starting in early spring. Our favorite place to get them is J.J. Cardinals in Grand Blanc. You can also just find the caterpillars by taking a walk in nature. When you purchase the kits, they come with a food supply making it super easy {we also love to buy this as a gift for young children}. Whether we purchase the caterpillars or find them out in nature, we have to make sure we have a supply of milkweed for the caterpillars to chomp on.  

pet butterflies

The caterpillars spend 1-2 weeks eating all of the food in sight. It is amazing how big they get in such a short period of time. My kids love watching the changes from day-to-day. After they’ve had enough to eat, they climb to the top of their container, and each one creates a chrysalis {cocoon}. We have yet to catch a caterpillar in the act of forming its chrysalis. The kids usually run in the house to check on the caterpillars and voila almost like magic the caterpillars have transformed.

They stay in the chrysalis for another 10-15 days. Then one day, the caterpillars emerge as beautiful butterflies! You can keep them for several days by feeding them cut up fruit with sugar. After your children have enjoyed them for a few days, it is time to set them free. You simply take the butterfly container outside and release them into the wild.

Have you tried this before? Share your own experiences with us!


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Courtney lives in Grand Blanc. She's married to Matt, and they have two very smart, energetic, and involved kids, Walker and Tenley. Courtney is a working mom who spends her days teaching High School Biology and English. She thrives on being busy, but also struggles with finding a good balance. She loves working with people, but definitely is inspired when she is interacting with young people. In her free time....just kidding she doesn't have free time, but she does love to go to concerts and catch up with friends and family. Favorite things include Michigan football, college basketball, scented candles, any beach, campfires, traveling and spontaneous dance parties.



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