Name: PALS II Classroom
We were wondering if we could catch caterpillars in jars,
provide some kind of food source, and watch them turn into
butterflies. I know you can order those kits, but there are lots of
caterpillars everywhere right now! PLEASE answer our questions. Thanks
Hi PALS II
When I catch catterpillars I put them in shoeboxes with some leaves from
the tree that I got them from. I change the leaves avery day and check on
them twice a day to make sure that they are OK (because when they turn into
butterflies they have to be let go so that they can go and find a mate). I
poke holes inthe top of the shoebox with a pair of scissors so that the
catterpillars have plenty of air.
Good Luck and take good care of your catterpillars.
Sure, it's easy. I used to do it all the time when I was a kid. Just find
out what the caterpillars eat - that's usually easy, because mostly all
caterpillars do is eat. If you catch a caterpillar eating a leaf, just make
sure that you give it plenty of those leaves every day. You may need to
experiment a little bit to give the caterpillar a good platform when it
finally gets around to spinning its cocoon or making its crysalis, but
caterpillar raising is generally not much of a chore.
Richard E. Barrans Jr., Ph.D.
Beats me. I am a chemist, not an entomologist. It is true that not all
caterpillars make butterflies; some make moths. Those can be interesting,
too. Bagworms you should be able to identify in a real hurry; they'll
cover themselves in leaves to make something that looks like a pine cone,
and eat from that protective shell.
I think that, in general, butterfly caterpillars are smooth-skinned and moth
caterpillars are furry. There may be exceptions. If you have collected the
larvae of some other insects, you will find out what they are when they grow
up. There's nothing wrong with that.
There is also tha possibility that some of your moth or butterfly
caterpillars will yield only a small fly or wasp from the coccoon or
chrysalis - this occurs when the caterpillar is carrying the larva of a
parasitic wasp, which eventually kills its host. Not pretty, but it is
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Update: June 2012