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Q: Raising Butterflies Indoors ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   1 Comment )
Subject: Raising Butterflies Indoors
Category: Family and Home > Pets
Asked by: hammer-ga
List Price: $100.00
Posted: 10 Feb 2006 08:42 PST
Expires: 12 Mar 2006 08:42 PST
Question ID: 444153
I have a large office area (about 3000 square feet) with 16 foot
ceilings. The offices are partitioned, but the partitions are only
about 8 feet high, so the upper area is unobstruted.

If I wanted to raise butterflies to live in here with the full run of
the indoor area, what would I have to do? What plants do I need? Where
do I get the caterpillars and food? How much does it cost? Would I
have to keep getting more forever, or is there some point at which
they would start to breed?

I live in Northeast Ohio, so I'd want varieties that can live here for
their full lifespan without migrating elsewhere and are native or not
harmful to the native varieties if they get out now and then. We keep
the office between 50 and 80 degrees Farenheit.

What do you think? Could I have a butterfly sanctuary here in my offices? :)
Subject: Re: Raising Butterflies Indoors
Answered By: hummer-ga on 10 Feb 2006 18:13 PST
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
Hi hammer - it's hummer!

Well, I must say, my first reaction when I read your question was,
"What an interesting idea, why didn't I think of that?".  So, plunge
ahead I did and although I'm still fascinated, I think I will wait to
hear how your project turns out before I try it!

1. What do you think? Could I have a butterfly sanctuary here in my offices? :)

Yes, as long as you don't mind using the word "sanctuary" a bit
loosely. Sanctuary implies a safe haven from something. Well, your
butterfly larvae, at least at first, will arrive by UPS Air, safe and
secure in their little cups.  After you've gained some experience and
have successfully reared a couple of young'uns to adulthood, then
perhaps you'll try your hand at gathering caterpillars in the wild and
may want to think of your office as a sanctuary then.

2. If  I wanted to raise butterflies to live in here with the full run
of the indoor area, what would I have to do?

Before you begin, consider buying the following book. It's for Grade 5
& up but I've picked that one in particular because it does mention
having the butterflies flying around the house.

The Family Butterfly Book (Paperback)
by Rick Mikula
"You will be surprised to learn that not only does Mikula recommend
raising butterflies to release into the wild, but also raising them
indoors and letting them fly around your house (and never go

Raising Butterflies and Moths
Where to keep your caterpillars:
"Either an aquarium or one-gallon jar is a suitable cage for your
caterpillars. The top of your cage should be fastened securely to the
cage and can either be screen or cheesecloth held on by a rubber band.
You should provide your caterpillars with some sticks that fit
securely into the cage for them to pupate on. Do not use a jar lid
with holes punched in it..."
"Once you have found the correct food, remember your caterpillars must
always have fresh food! Caterpillars will not eat old or dry leaves.
The easiest way to feed your caterpillars is to provide them with a
live, potted plant in their cage. However, because many host plants
are large bushes or trees, this is not always possible. Therefore, it
is best to provide new clippings of host plant everyday, and to
preserve the food by keeping it in water. However, caterpillars can
(and will) fall into vases and jars of water and die. Therefore, keep
the food fresh by placing it in floral tubes..."
"Always be sure to carefully inspect your fresh plant cuttings for
spiders or insects..!"
How to water your caterpillars:
"Caterpillars receive all the water they need from the plants they
eat. It is not necessary to provide them with any additional water
source. The cage can be misted periodically if it appears dry, because
most caterpillars prefer a somewhat humid environment..."
How to keep your caterpillar cage clean:
"Caterpillars have one job in life: eating. Because of this, they
produce copious amounts of waste (known as frass). This frass must be
cleaned out of the cage every day in order to prevent mold growth and
create a healthy environment for your caterpillars. If you are raising
butterflies or moths that you know will pupate above ground, you can
simply line the bottom of your cage with paper towels..."
Taking care of pupae (chrysalides or cocoons):
"Your pupae do not need food or water. An occasional misting of the
container will help keep the environment humid, which is necessary for
healthy pupae.
Most butterflies and moths will stay in their pupae throughout the
winter. Therefore, if your caterpillars pupate in the fall (or at any
time during the winter in the case of purchased caterpillars), there
is a good chance that they will remain in their pupae until Spring.
Remember that your diapausing pupae are still alive. Keep the cage
humid with occasional misting.Be sure your pupae are hanging in a
proper location for your moth or butterfly to emerge. A newly emerged
butterfly must be able to hang high enough that the tips of its wings
will not touch the ground when they are fully expanded..."
" Most butterfly pupae (chrysalides) will either turn dark or become
clear when the butterfly is ready to emerge. When this happens, be
especially sure that your cage is humid. Keep a careful watch! It only
takes a few seconds for a butterfly to come out of its pupa!"
When your butterflies emerge:
"Be sure to provide sticks that hit the bottom of the cage so a fallen
butterfly or moth can climb up the sticks to find a place to hang.If
you would like to keep your butterfly for a few days to observe it,
you can build a butterfly house. Be sure to release it within a few

Rearing Monarchs
"This section contains practical tips on successfully rearing
Monarchs, and ways in which you can increase your chances of observing
the changes that occur during their metamorphosis."


3. I live in Northeast Ohio, so I'd want varieties that can live here
for their full lifespan without migrating elsewhere and are native or
not harmful to the native varieties if they get out now and then.

"If you are short on time or if the season is wrong for caterpillar
hunting, there are several companies that supply caterpillars. Painted
Lady caterpillars are particularly easy to keep because you can buy a
growth medium for them, which will eliminate the need to find fresh
host plant leaves for them every day. However, there are drawbacks to
raising caterpillars this way. In particular, students do not get the
full benefit of learning how important it is for caterpillars to have
the correct host plant to eat. Nevertheless, raising Painted Ladies on
growth medium is still a rewarding experience for the students, and is
less dependent on the season outside and which leaves you can find.
Butterfly larva of the well-loved Monarch butterfly can be purchased
from an organization known as Monarch Watch (
These caterpillars are a favorite for a lot of classrooms because of
their bright colors, and because so many people love the Monarch
butterfly. The only drawback to raising Monarch caterpillars is the
need to find their host plant, milkweed. Milkweed is a very common
garden plant as well as a common weed. Many nurseries sell several
beautiful varieties of milkweed."



Butterflies of Ohio
Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui) 
Monarch (Danaus plexippus)

Ohio Butterflies
"There are currently 144 different species of butterflies recorded
from the State of Ohio. Eventually these pages will contain
information on all 144 species, however only the 12 most common
species are currently listed."

Butterflies Of Ohio Field Guide
by Jaret C. Daniels

Northeast Ohio Chapter of NABA

4. Where do I get the caterpillars and food?  How much does it cost? 

Monarch Rearing Kit: (shipped only to East of Rockies)
Your Price:  $16.00 + $23 S&H for up to 4 kits
"This Monarch Rearing Kit contains fourteen to sixteen first to third
instar monarch larvae (caterpillars) and rearing instructions. The
larvae arrive in small cups and must be transferred to milkweed plants
or leaves to feed. Please make sure you have fresh milkweed available
before your caterpillars arrive. Each caterpillar generally needs 18
inches of milkweed to pupate. Pupation will occur in about 10 days and
adults will emerge 10-14 days after pupation. These butterflies can be
used for classroom instruction, student projects or to start a
classroom breeding population."

Educational Science
Butterfly Rearing, Growing, and Breeding Kits with Monarch
caterpillars(larvae) or Painted Lady caterpillars (larvae), artificial
diet or host plants.
Butterfly Kits
Breeding Supplies

Monarch set-up culture, certificate for 25 monarch eggs / larvae with
artificial diet or milkweed leaves and rearing cups (MC250)     
"Monarch set-up culture, Certificate for 25 monarch eggs or larvae,
300ml monarch artificial diet or milkweed leaves, and rearing cups.
Items required: Milkweed plant(s) (cat no: BF100A) or source of
milkweed to feed monarch larvae. Each milkweed plant(BF 100A) will
support 3-4 monarch larvae. For best results larvae should be placed
directly on a milkweed plant or fed fresh milkweed every day. "
Painted lady set-up culture, 35 painted lady larvae (ship ASAP),
painted lady artificial diet, 6 nine oz cups/lids(PC350A)    $38.00
"Painted lady set-up culture, 30-35 painted lady larvae(ship ASAP-NO
Certificate), painted lady instant Microwave artificial diet, 6 nine
oz cups/lids."

If you keep the adults, they should have a cage large enough to allow
flight. Hanging or wooden frame cages are examples of cages that work
well for adults. Adults do not need to be fed until the day after they
emerge. After this they should be fed daily. They can be fed in a
variety of ways. Fresh cut flowers can be placed in containers and put
in the cage, a small dish or jar lid containing a sponge saturated
with a 20% honey/water solution can be set in the cage, or fresh fruit
such as watermelons, honeydew or cantaloupe melons can be cut and set
in the cage. These should be changed daily to prevent fermentation.
"Juicy-Juice" purchased from a grocery store can substitute for the
honey water solution. We also have a non-fermenting artificial nectar
mix available. To encourage feeding in any of the above methods, place
the front feet into the solution and the butterfly will sometimes
unwind the proboscis and start feeding. If the butterfly does not
unwind its proboscis after several tries, place a probe or pin in the
loop of the proboscis and pull the pin away from the head so the
proboscis is extended and touches the honey solution. Once the
proboscis is in the nectar solution, the butterfly is feeding."

Butterfly Nectar Kit
Item Number:	113207
Your Price:	$6.00
This kit includes 1 clear plastic feeding dish, 1 feeding scrubber,
and nectar mix (ingredients you wouldn't normally find in your
kitchen). Makes 1 liter of nectar and will not ferment."

5. Would I have to keep getting more forever, or is there some point
at which they would start to breed?

General Instructions for Hand-Raising Butterflies & Moths
"BREEDING - Butterflies are very difficult to breed in captivity. Your
best bet is to release them."

Guide to Rearing Monarch Butterflies
"Monarchs need lots of light, or they won't breed.   We recommend that
you place at least four 48'' full-spectrum flourescent bulbs right on
top of the cage.  Put them on a timer so that the butterflies get
about 17 hours of light each day.
Monarchs need appropriate temperature, or they won't breed (I know, I
know, this is starting to sound difficult).  Make sure the temperature
in the cage during the "lighted" hours stays between 70 and 85 F.
Feeding Adult Monarchs
Monarch butterflies need to eat.  In nature, they drink nectar from
flowers.  We've found two easy substitutes for this.  You can use
apple juice or, alternatively, you can buy hummingbird feeder nectar
at any pet store, or at Walmart.
Feeding is easy.  Just put a small sponge in a small saucer and pour
the liquid on it..."
Laying Eggs 
Monarchs will ONLY lay eggs on milkweed.  Be sure to keep a couple of
milkweed plants in the cage for the females to lay their eggs on.  The
eggs will hatch in about 4 days."

6. What plants do I need? 

Milkweed Plant (Ship plant ASAP - No Certificate) (BF100A)     $10.00 
Milkweed Plant (Asclepias curassvica), one gallon size, feeds 3-4
monarch larvae. Host plant for Monarch butterfly larvae. Includes
instructions. Certified pesticide free."

Or check out your local nursery.

Additional Links of Interest:

Starting tomorrow, Northeast Ohio will have a new venue where humans
can get up close and personal with some beautiful and exotic
creatures. Butterflies are the second most numerous of all insects,
after the beetle. They are master flyers and helpful pollinators.
Plus, contrary to their reputation for being elusive, they are
friendly. But their tendency to cling to humans at a new indoor
exhibition, could pose an environmental hazard"

Observations of a Butterfly Gardener

Dayton's Butterfly House
Cox Arboretum And Gardens

The Butterfly House 
11455 Obee Road
Whitehouse Ohio 43571 
Telephone: 419-877-2733

The Ohio Lepidopterists

Rearing Butterflies at Home

Food List



Rearing Butterflies and Moths

The Butterfly Site

"The problem with this, of course, is that other than to void excess
water, butterflies do not excrete! Caterpillars do because they are
the active growing stage, although a simple consideration of what they
eat will make you wonder why anyone would consider that it, commonly
called frass, resembled butter! Intriguingly, the larvae of the
Jamaican Mexican Fritillary, Euptoieta hegesia hegesia (Nymphalidae),
when fed exclusively on the yellow flowers of their preferred host
plant, Turnera ulmifolia (Turneraceae), do excrete yellow frass!  When
a butterfly emerges from its chrysalis it voids its last larval meal
and the waste byproducts of metamorphosis in meconium, a fluid that is
most often blood colored (which would lead one to ?bloodfly? not

Thank you for the very interesting question. I'm sure that I don't
need to remind you about clarification requests, please feel free to
use the feature.

Thank you,

Some of the search terms used:

painted lady caterpillars kit
breeding butterflies
monarch caterpillars
how to raise butterflies in the house
"rearing butterflies"
Butterfly Sanctuary northeast ohio
hammer-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars and gave an additional tip of: $10.00
Nice work, Hummer! The book is on order. I'll let you know how it works out.

Subject: Re: Raising Butterflies Indoors
From: hummer-ga on 11 Feb 2006 10:07 PST
Thank you, hammer, for your nice note, rating, and tip, all are
appreciated. I'll look forward to your update, sounds like you have
your work cut out for you! At first I was a bit worried about all
those little poops being deposited in your office and was relieved to
read that butterflies don't poop.  Very interesting research, thank
you. Sincerely, hummer

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