Raising butterflies indoors is just plain fun as well as being educational, organic, scientific, and amazing. I have found that it fascinates people from a range of 18 months old to 80 years old. A lady friend who lives close by said that in all her 80-some years of life she had never witnessed a caterpillar turn into a chrysalis and then into a butterfly. She was thrilled and awed by the transformation.
Raising eggs, caterpillars and butterflies is also a low cost hobby especially considering all you get out of it. In order to raise a butterfly from an egg or a caterpillar, you must have a plant to feed the caterpillar. Many of the plants to feed the caterpillars (host plants) are common in our gardens or in the wild. The feeding of a caterpillar can decimate a plant but rarely kills it so you can use the plant for many seasons assuming it is a perennial. You can find out more about host plants by visiting the article, What Do Caterpillars Eat.
Other things that you need to raise a butterfly indoors include items which you probably already have around. For example, you may want some sticks for the caterpillars to wander around on and find a place to attach their chrysalis, otherwise they can just use the walls/top of their inclosure. In an open environment, an easy way to hold the sticks up is to stick them down in a plastic pot with some soil. You may also need something to hold your host plant cuttings to feed the caterpillars. If the host plant is in the ground rather than a pot then you can take cuttings from the plant and stick them through holes in the top of a plastic container filled with water. Make a Caterpillar Home Indoors offers some ideas about set-ups for raising caterpillars. The point is that you can most likely find everything you need right around your home.
To raise a butterfly you will have to start with an egg or a caterpillar. Of course you could also find a chrysalis to bring indoors but they can be harder to find and you will miss out on a lot of the action. Please explore our other articles for more details about finding a caterpillar or finding butterfly eggs outdoors. If you start with a fresh butterfly egg you can expect to wait about 3-7 days for it to hatch. The butterfly larva (caterpillar) will eat and grow for about 2-4 weeks. It will then turn into a chrysalis and the butterfly will emerge from the chrysalis in about 1-2 weeks. These time periods can vary dramatically based on the time of the year and the butterfly species.
When your butterfly ecloses (emerges) from the chrysalis it will not be able to fly for several hours as it pumps its wings up and dries them out. They are so fresh and brilliantly colored as they ready themselves for flight. In the stage right before they fly they will often stay on your fingers and stretch their beautiful wings. My kids love it. The butterfly can be released as soon as it is able to fly or it can stay indoors for about 24 hours and then it will need to be released to find some butterfly food (nectar).
I hope this overview of raising butterflies indoors is helpful. It is a delightful hobby. We are a growing website and will continue to add more articles and webpages. Please bookmark us and visit our other articles for more details about raising butterflies indoors and butterfly gardening.
One more thing, if you do not have easy access to the outdoors or do not want to find your own eggs/caterpillars, you can still have the fun of raising butterflies by using a kit. They make fantastic and unique gifts and I have used one myself and purchased them for my nieces and others with great results.
The Live Butterfly Garden comes with a habitat and a coupon that you send in to get the live caterpillars with all the food you need. They rate very well on Amazon.com and Amazon has the best prices I have found anywhere. There is also a larger kit called the Live Butterfly Pavilion if you are interested.