Caring for your pet caterpillar – UPDATE


I would like to introduce you to the newest member of our family, named by the kids as “Emily”

Now normally these are some critters you want to keep out of your garden but with my kids asking for the “Live Butterfly Garden,” bringing in a caterpillar from inside and putting it into a jar seemed like a much more cost effective option.

Growing up I have caught caterpillars with the great hopes that I would be able to witness its metamorphosis into a butterfly.  Unfortunately, the lack of the internet or a nearby library I never got the knowledge of the particular “butterfly” I caught wouldn’t eat just any leaves I threw in it .  Caterpillars are very picky eaters and each specie only will consume particular types of leaves.

If you found your caterpillar munching on a plant you are in luck and you can just pick a couple leaves a day for your caterpillar.  They will not eat old or dry leaves and must be replaced daily.  In our case our caterpillar was found on a plastic play set, which sort of limited out options.  My girls did pick some leaves of various plants in our yard, and if we are lucky we may find one our caterpillar enjoys.

To improve the odds I was able to identify this caterpillar as a Painted Lady, which enjoys nettles and thistle.  Both of which grow great in my area, though none is growing in my yard (which normally would be a good thing)

This led to a nice walk in the woods to attempt to find some leaves for the caterpillars distinguished palate, unfortunately we did not find any nettles or thistles though came back with a good variety of leaves.

That Butterfly Garden is looking like a bargain at the moment.

UPDATE — May 31, 2008


We are happy to announce that “Emily” has started has started her transformation into becoming a beautiful butterfly (or moth if my amateur identification is incorrect).  We were successful in finding their favorite food which happened to be the little clovers growing in our back yard.  Definitely a case of good reason to not kill all weeds with pesticides in your yard, by the way the rabbits love the stuff more than my lettuce so added bonus.

As you can see in the background “Emily” has some friends with her (3 total)  though currently unnamed, though I am sure by the time my daughter reads this post she will fix that.

Stay tuned in 7-10 days hopefully we will have a butterfly/moth release.

UPDATE — 06/26/2009


Well 7-10 days turned into more like 26 days, just when we were thinking the worse, Emily emerged as a beautiful brown moth.

For info on the flight lessons and release, check out this post.

21 Responses to “Caring for your pet caterpillar – UPDATE”

  1. Darla Says:

    Our youngest likes to raise butterflies too. She has a little butterfly habitat.

  2. David Says:

    I don’t think our nettles have come out yet and I removed one thistle plant already. But I might be able to find some more if you need some.

  3. Hydroponica Says:

    I used to do that when I was a kid, but I always seemed to collect the caterpillars of moths and ugly flying bugs, only rarely did I find one that became a pretty butterfly.My biggest piece of advice is to make sure that once it goes into a cocoon you make sure there’s lots of room inside there for it to open its wings. If it’s too cramped the wings will dry bunched up and it won’t be able to fly.

  4. The Cheap Vegetable Gardener Says:

    Fortunately we found some leaves in the backyard that it likes. The kids even found another caterpillar (left this one outside)so appears others found the food as well.

  5. Patti Says:

    Uh-oh – we’re not going to have a bad tent caterpillar year again, are we? *shudders*

  6. megan Says:

    Dugh, it is Maddies cattapillers. I am blogging about Thats it

  7. beth Says:

    I would prefer to have costly vegetables rather then having caterpillar

  8. megan Says:

    They all 4 of them are a cacon.

  9. Patti Says:

    Did yours emerge yet? Mine is still cocooned . . .

  10. The Cheap Vegetable Gardener Says:

    Yep, first one came out yesterday. Looks like they are moths…

  11. Courtney Says:

    Ok um they dont have that much info about Caterpillars and i have to do it in school

  12. Courtney Says:

    I had one in 4th grade but mine came out with a dameged wing:(

  13. karre Says:


    My daughter found the same kind of caterpillar as you guys show….we are trying to raise it but don’t know what to feed it. I know it was a while ago but do you happen to remember what sort of leaves you found that it liked???


  14. The Cheap Vegetable Gardener Says:

    karre, I would recommend doing the same as we did pick a few different types of leaves around where you found it. It will find something it liked, in our case it was a clover something similiar to this

  15. lexie Says:

    my little brother and sister are looking for caterpillars and i never would have thought that caterpillars are pickey WOW ”

  16. anna Says:

    now i can have fun withm him is have fun to withm him your so cool tx

  17. Kenji Says:

    I found a giant caterpillar, looks kind of dull. What should we feed it? (We’re in fourth grade and we’re keeping it as a class pet in summer school.)

  18. Kenji Says:

    P.S. We found it on a sidewalk and have never seen it around before, so that’s why we’re not just taking the leaves around and pushing it in the bottle.

  19. The Cheap Vegetable Gardener Says:

    Kenji, I would recommend choosing a few different leaves from where you found your caterpillar. Then take notice of what leaves he/she is eating and just get those next time.

  20. gina Says:

    I found a catty in a bucket of fresh parsley …to all who is looking for food try that…he/ she really seams to enjoy the parsley…good luck

  21. Jilinna Says:

    I have a caterpillar today and its very furry just like yours!

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