Create a DIY caterpillar habitat and engage your kids in learning more about the stages of life by looking at how a caterpillar turns into a beautiful butterfly!
Caterpillars are an interesting way to teach your kids about the different life cycles of living organisms. Seeing a caterpillar form into a beautiful butterfly will be an experience that your kids will never forget! Caterpillars need enough plants to feed on and an atmosphere that is not too dry. Suitable habitat for a caterpillar will aid its life cycle and soon it will turn into a butterfly. When in the DIY caterpillar habitat, caterpillars will eat and become big and fat. After they become big and far, they will be ready to change into butterflies. During this period, they will climb up the container and attach themselves to the container’s lid with a strand of silk. These caterpillars will form a J-shape and hang upside, indicating the beginning of the chrysalis process. They will shed a thin layer of the outer skin, and during this time, it is important not to shake, disturb or move their habitat container.
If you intend to create a DIY caterpillar habitat and witness the beautiful phases of their life cycle, below DIYs shall help you. Teaching your kids to take care of the caterpillar habitat will inhibit a sense of responsibility and affection in them from early on. Follow the below guidelines and tips to learn how to make a caterpillar habitat.
DIY Caterpillar Habitat
Method – 1 | Closed Containers
- Host plants
The first and foremost step for creating the caterpillar habitat is to find a suitable container. You need to create a pleasant and comfortable environment for the caterpillar. You can use a well-ventilated glass tank, or a plastic container, or a couple of 1-liter plastic soda bottles.
To make the container suitable for caterpillars, ensure that it has ventilation and a little humidity. The caterpillars must not be able to crawl out of the container. Punch a few tiny holes into the lid of the container to properly ventilate the container and ensure little hydration. However, you must ensure that the holes should not be big enough such that the caterpillars can escape through them. These holes should be big enough only so that the air circulation is certain.
Caterpillars are easy to keep as they don’t have any complex needs. Make sure they have a constant supply of the host plants for feeding. The plants can vary significantly across breeds. Most common host plants include Aster, Hollyhock, Sunflower, Snapdragon, and Violet.
The next step is to understand and choose where you’ll be putting the caterpillar habitat. The habitat should be put where the chances of drying out are less. It should not be in a place that has too much heat. It would be best not to place it under direct sunlight, such as on a sunny window sill.
The biggest potential health problem for the caterpillars occurs due to their poop or frass. In the case of an enclosed environment, you need to pay close attention needs to cleanliness. The frass will not dry properly in an enclosed environment.
Method – 2 | Open Containers
- Bucket or Open Container
- Host plants
Caterpillars do not tend to move around too much if they find a good place to feed. Hence, an open habitat can work for them. You can build the habitat in a potted plant and place it on the table. However, if you want controlled movements of the caterpillars, then you may build a habitat in an open bucket or a container.
The next step is to add host plants to the containers. You can plant the host plants in the potted plants or a bucket or a container. You can even make the plants’ cuttings and place them inside the container. Keeping the leaves a little damp is essential to hydrate the container.
In case of an open container, add a mesh, screen, or net over the top of the plant or container. This is because caterpillars can attract attention from parasites and predators around the home. A net over the container will reduce the risk of caterpillars being hunted by other predators.
After you build the caterpillar habitat, you need to pay close attention. You must clean the frass out regularly. Besides, keep adding host plant cuttings regularly so that the caterpillars are eating and growing. Keep the container well-hydrated and moist so that it doesn’t go too dry and interfere with caterpillars’ pupation.
- Frass is caterpillar droppings and are small, roundish, green in color. They usually do not stink, but since caterpillars excrete a lot, you must clean them regularly.
- Place the habitat in an area where the chances of drying out are less. Do not place under direct sunlight or on a sunny window sill. Make sure the habitat doesn’t get too much direct or indirect heat.
- Many caterpillars tend to empty their digestive tracks right before pupating. They release a greenish liquid. Hence, it is advised to keep paper towels or shreds of newspaper around the area.
- After the butterfly is formed, it will pump its wings, releasing a reddish-brown coloured fluid. As a result, it is advisable to keep paper towels or shreds of newspaper around the area.