I think it is so much fun to find an interesting caterpillar especially one I’ve never seen before. Equally fun is seeing what it will turn into. I started raising caterpillars when my kids were small but have been doing it much more frequently in the last few years.
Here are some tips that might help you.
First you have to find a caterpillar. Go on: go out and look.
Here is a Zebra Swallowtail Caterpillar that I found and successfully raised.
You might want to know what you have found. I use -Caterpillars of Eastern North America by David Wagner.
The Zebra Swallowtail Caterpillar in this picture has its osmeterium extended. It is supposed to deter predators.
It is best when you find the caterpillar munching on a leaf: that way you know exactly what to feed it. If not, you will have to identify it then do some research to find out what food to supply it. (See suggested book above or search the internet).
Provide fresh food as needed. I like to place a branch or some leaves in a jar of water to keep the plant fresh.
Prevent drowning. Believe it or not, caterpillars aren’t water smart. They will walk right down a stem into a vase of water and drown. I don’t know why they just don’t walk backwards up the stem and out of the water. To prevent this tragedy, you will need to choose small necked jars and fill the opening with stems, plastic wrap or even a bit of cork. I find that spice jars work really well. Fill the holes with leaves or branches of the host plant. I’ve been able to reuse spice jars that have different sized holes. Some tops have small holes and others have larger holes. Choose what works for the plant you are providing.
Here it is forming it’s chrysalis.
I think the chrysalis of a Zebra Swallowtail looks like a mummified cat.
Here it is the day it came out of the chrysalis.
Here it is high in a tree after we set it free. I had to use a ladder to get this picture but it was worth it.
Rearing box with Luna moth caterpillars.
Use a rearing cage. It is important that you keep your caterpillar friend in a cage of some sort. I’ve had caterpillars venture off somewhere in my house never to be seen again. I like to think that they metamorphosed and eventually flew away.
Recently I bought an Insectabox and love it. It is very well designed. Here is a link. http://www.insectabox.com/
Here is the link for my homemade box that I’ve used for over 10 years. http://www.funinthemaking.net/2009/07/08/myo-butterfly-metamorphosis-observatory-out-of-a-cardboard-box/
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