How to Make a Butterfly Enclosure

Building an enclosure is an easy and fast DIY project, and you can use a regular nylon mesh. Check out how to take care of butterflies at home.

How to Build a Butterfly Shelter

butterfly enclosure
Butterfly enclosure

Once you’re ready to make a safe butterfly habitat cage, collect supplies. You may want to work with a simple nylon net or go heavy on the DIY and make the butterfly house from untreated timber, plastic, or fine mesh.

Purchase the nylon net, pots, and plants (milkweed is the best), and find some timber pieces. Select a spot in your garden where you can hang the net above the potted plant. Ideally, you’ll want to place the plant on a concrete base, as concrete reduces the number of insects that may try to enter the enclosure.

It’s essential to keep the plant away from the net, as wasps can kill a caterpillar on the leaf that’s touching the mesh. It will hang on the outer side of the mesh and suck the caterpillar dry. Use the timber pieces to keep the net farther away from the plant leaves.

Weigh down the net with pieces of bricks or old concrete. This butterfly/caterpillar enclosure is strong enough to keep the caterpillars safe. It’s also affordable and easy to replace or fix if torn.

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Pay attention to several things:

  • check your net for holes and tears daily and repair them immediately
  • remove any insects you see inside as fast as possible
  • take good care of the host plant
  • shelter the enclosure from rain and strong sunlight

Made vs. Bought Enclosures

You can either purchase or make a butterfly enclosure for your home. Commercial insect cages come with various features, such as:

  • being parasitoid-resistant
  • having added seam of protection
  • affordability
  • easy set-up mechanisms

Insect cages also come in many forms, depending on what you’d like to achieve. This is why you’ll find steel pop-ups, nets, glass terrariums, and even hanging cages.

On the other hand, DIY enclosures are fun projects and may be a more affordable solution for keeping butterflies safe.

Stull, homemade caterpillar cages come with certain issues. For example, some may be hard to clean properly, which may lead to disease outbreaks. Caterpillars may easily escape the net with larger holes, so pick it wisely. If you raise adults and caterpillars in the same enclosure, you risk the spread of deadly parasites, which may fall off the adult butterfly’s wings onto the caterpillars.

Why Would You Want a Butterfly Enclosure

Just like bees, all species of butterflies are crucial for the ecosystem. They’re natural pollinators, necessary for healthy plants. At the same time, most butterfly species are extremely vulnerable and easily become victims to predators and parasites.

Butterfly enclosure is key to protecting caterpillars from small animals, reptiles, and other dangerous insect lore. Furthermore, allowing the butterflies to develop in a more natural environment (instead of the inside terrarium or glass jars) ensures the butterflies are healthy and happy.

How to Raise Butterflies at Home

butterfly enclosure
Butterfly enclosure

You can raise virtually any butterfly species, yet people usually decide to start raising Monarch butterflies. The butterfly enclosure can help you improve the Monarch butterfly life but also safely breed Painted ladies, Red admirals, Buckeyes, and other kinds.

Luckily, Swallowtails, Monarchs, and Painted ladies are easy to raise. Plant milkweed and wait for it to grow. When the mating season comes, and female butterflies lay eggs, collect them from host plants by cutting the leaf that’s packed with eggs.

Caring for butterflies before they hatch

Place the leaves with eggs in a container, egg side up, and close it. Don’t worry about the air supply — opening the container for a daily clean-up is completely enough. Keep the container clean by wiping it with water to remove droppings (frass) and adding fresh milkweed.

Caterpillars will go through several instars, meaning they’ll leave their old skin around as they grow. During this moment, the larva may develop an infection. If you notice a sick caterpillar, remove it from the container before it spreads the disease to others.

After the pupa (chrysalis) stage, the adult butterflies will hatch. Let them rest for a few hours to dry their wings, then set them free.

Making a butterfly farm

Most butterfly cages and enclosures will support any species. If you want to make a butterfly farm, know you’ll have to invest more. You’ll need a larger space, plenty of critter cages, many butterfly feeders, and a bigger garden to help all the species live happily around your house.

There are also butterfly houses for adult butterflies, which let them rest safely in the corner of your garden, so you may want those as well.

If you’re stuck and can’t find any eggs or caterpillars around, you can order them online. Still, caterpillars will usually be available during fall since the temperatures are lower and they can handle shipping.

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