The 3 Best Butterfly Garden Kits (& Instructions)

Butterfly garden kits provide a real-life, tangible way to learn about the life cycle of butterflies. It’s a practical introduction to concepts like metamorphosis, adaptation, and the interconnectedness of living organisms in an ecosystem.

It’s important to note that these types of kits and habitats are intended for temporary use during the observation and learning process. Once adult butterflies emerge from their chrysalides, they should be released into their natural habitat.

Let’s look at our top 3 choices for butterfly garden kits and habitats.

1. Insect Lore Butterfly Garden Kit

Our Top Pick
Insect Lore Butterfly Garden Kit
  • Cup containing five Painted lady baby caterpillars
  • Reusable mesh habitat
  • Chrysalis holding log
  • Flower-shaped butterfly feeder
  • Feeding dropper
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The Insect Lore Butterfly Garden Kit comes as a comprehensive and educational package for observing the life cycle of Painted Lady butterflies.

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The kit includes a cup containing five baby caterpillars at an early stage of their life cycle. This cup also provides them with the necessary nutritious food they need to grow and develop.

A 12-inch tall, reusable mesh habitat is included in the kit. This habitat is designed for housing the caterpillars and later the chrysalids and butterflies. It can be easily collapsed flat for convenient storage when not in use.

A chrysalis holding log is provided for you to use when your caterpillars develop into chrysalids (the pupal stage). It offers a secure place to observe and document this stage of their transformation.

The kit also includes a flower-shaped butterfly feeder along with two sugar packets and a feeding dropper. This allows you to provide nourishment to the butterflies once they emerge, helping them thrive.

This kit is designed not just as a toy but as an educational tool that allows users to witness the incredible transformations of butterflies up close, fostering a deeper appreciation for nature and science.

What we like:

  • The kit aligns with STEM principles, making it a valuable resource for educators and parents interested in promoting STEM education.
  • The kit appeals to a wide age range, from young children to adults.
  • The kit provides a controlled environment for caterpillars to develop without exposure to potential predators or harmful elements.

Things to keep in mind:

  • While the kit typically includes extra caterpillars to account for natural losses, there’s a possibility that some caterpillars may not survive due to various factors, such as stress during shipping or illness.

2. NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC Butterfly Growing Kit

Easiest To Use
  • Mesh enclosure with a see-through lid
  • Painted Lady butterfly caterpillars voucher included
  • Flower-shaped feeder
  • Sponge
  • Plastic specimen dish
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The kit allows users to build a real butterfly habitat inside a mesh enclosure with a see-through lid. This enclosure provides a safe and controlled environment for observing the caterpillars and butterflies. It’s also an interactive activity as kids can decorate the feeder with included stickers.

The kit includes a voucher for obtaining five baby Painted Lady butterfly caterpillars.

Other items included: a flower-shaped feeder to nourish the butterflies once they have emerged from their chrysalides; a sponge to provide a source of moisture within the habitat, ensuring a suitable environment for the caterpillars and butterflies; a plastic specimen dish to serve as a surface for the butterflies to rest.

This option is designed with clear and easy-to-follow instructions that are suitable for children. This makes it accessible and engaging for young learners, allowing them to actively participate in the process of raising and observing butterflies.

You’ll also get a full-color poster featuring detailed illustrations and information about the life cycle and anatomy of butterflies. It serves as a visual aid to help children better understand the various stages of a butterfly’s development and its physical characteristics.

What we like:

  • NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC is known for producing high-quality educational products, and users often find that the materials in the kit are durable and well-designed.
  • The inclusion of stickers adds a creative element to the experience.
  • Users report very positive experiences with customer support from NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC.

What to keep in mind:

  • Some users may find the cost of shipping and handling for the live caterpillars to be an additional expense, and it can vary depending on the location and delivery options.

3. RESTCLOUD Professional Butterfly Habitat

Best For Monarchs
RESTCLOUD Professional Butterfly Habitat
  • Great for raising Monarch, Painted Lady or Swallowtail butterflies
  • Sits straight without rocking or moving
  • Collapsible design
  • Zippered opening
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The RESTCLOUD professional portable pop-up habitat is great for raising Monarch, Painted Lady or Swallowtail butterflies (bear in mind that the kit does not include a voucher to redeem caterpillars).

The mesh enclosure is soft and gentle on delicate butterfly wings, ensuring the butterflies can safely cling to it during their pupal stage.

This version of the butterfly habitat is designed for stability and ease of use. It is more square in shape, which means it sits straight without rocking or moving. This stability is especially important when caring for delicate butterflies.

The habitat has a collapsible design, making it easy to fold and store when not in use. When unfolded, it measures 15.7 x 15.7 x 23.6 inches, providing ample space to house butterflies. It can even hold two milkweed plants, which serve as a food source for caterpillars.

The habitat features a zippered opening for easy access to the interior. This allows users to place caterpillars or chrysalides inside, provide food, or conduct observations without disturbing the butterflies.

The kit includes a quick start guide manual to help users get started with raising butterflies.

What we like:

  • Many users find this butterfly habitat to be well-constructed and stable.
  • The large zipper side opening is convenient for feeding the butterflies and for releasing them into the wild.
  • The inclusion of five mesh panels provides excellent airflow.

What to keep in mind:

  • The kit does not include a voucher to redeem caterpillars or any additional accessories, such as educational materials or feeding tools, which may be available with other butterfly habitat products.

How to Use A Butterfly Garden Kit – Instructions

Here’s a general guide on how to use a butterfly garden kit:

Materials You’ll Need:

  1. One of our recommended butterfly garden kits.
  2. Safe and comfortable location, away from direct sunlight or drafts.
  3. Access to water and clean hands for maintenance.

Step-by-Step Instructions:

  1. Prepare the Habitat:
    • Assemble the mesh habitat according to the instructions provided with the kit.
    • Place the habitat in a safe and stable location indoors, away from direct sunlight or drafts. Ensure that it won’t be disturbed.
  2. Inspect the Caterpillars:
    • When you receive your kit and the caterpillars, inspect the container with the live caterpillars. Ensure that they are active and healthy.
  3. Set Up the Caterpillars:
    • Follow the kit’s instructions to transfer the caterpillars into the mesh habitat.
    • The habitat typically includes a chrysalis log or surface where caterpillars will attach themselves to form chrysalises.
    • Keep the caterpillar container provided with the kit for reference and as a backup in case of issues with the habitat.
  4. Provide Food and Water:
    • Your kit should include nutritious food for the caterpillars. Follow the instructions for feeding, which may involve placing the food in the habitat or on a designated surface.
    • Ensure there is a clean source of water nearby, but avoid spraying water directly on the caterpillars or chrysalises.
  5. Observe and Record:
    • Monitor the caterpillars’ growth and behavior. Observe their feeding and movement patterns.
    • Use the provided journal or log to record your observations, including dates and changes in behavior.
  6. Chrysalis Stage:
    • Caterpillars will eventually attach themselves to form chrysalises. This stage can take around 7 to 10 days.
    • Observe the chrysalises carefully but avoid touching them.
  7. Butterfly Emergence:
    • Adult butterflies will emerge from the chrysalises. This typically takes 1 to 2 weeks.
    • Observe the butterflies as they pump fluid into their wings and prepare for flight.
  8. Feeding Adult Butterflies:
    • Provide a source of nourishment for the adult butterflies, such as sugar water or overripe fruit, following the kit’s instructions.
  9. Release the Butterflies:
    • After observing the adult butterflies for a few days and learning about their behavior, it’s time to release them.
    • Take the habitat outside to a suitable location and allow the butterflies to fly freely into their natural environment.
  10. Clean and Store the Habitat:
    • Clean the habitat according to the kit’s instructions for reuse or storage.
Insect Lore butterfly kit
Insect Lore butterfly kit

When should you start a butterfly kit?

The timing for starting a butterfly kit depends on several factors, including the type of butterflies you want to raise, your location, and the availability of caterpillars. Here are some general guidelines:

Spring and Summer: In many regions, spring and summer are ideal times to start a butterfly kit because these seasons coincide with the natural life cycles of many butterfly species. Butterflies often emerge in the warmer months when flowers are abundant.

Host Plant Availability: If you plan to raise butterflies that rely on specific host plants, ensure that those plants are available and in good condition. Caterpillars need these host plants to feed and grow.

Local Climate: Consider your local climate and temperature. Some butterflies are more active during specific temperature ranges. Extreme heat or cold can be detrimental to caterpillars and butterflies, so avoid starting a kit during extreme weather conditions.

Supplier Availability: If you are ordering caterpillars or butterfly kits from a supplier, check their availability. Some suppliers may only offer caterpillars at certain times of the year, so plan accordingly.

How long do butterfly kits take?

In total, the entire process can take approximately 4 to 8 weeks, but this timeline can vary.

When you receive the kit, it often contains caterpillars that are in the larval stage of development. During this stage, the caterpillars will feed on the provided food and grow. The duration of the larval stage varies depending on the butterfly species but typically lasts around 1 to 3 weeks.

After the caterpillars reach a certain size, they will often form chrysalides (pupae). This stage can last about 7 to 10 days or longer, depending on the species and environmental conditions.

The chrysalides will eventually open, and adult butterflies will emerge. This usually takes 1 to 2 weeks, depending on the species and conditions. The timing may also be influenced by factors like temperature and humidity.

Do all caterpillars turn into butterflies at the same time?

Even within a single species, individual caterpillars may develop at slightly different rates. Factors such as genetics, health, and access to food can influence the pace of development.

Should a butterfly garden kit have flowers?

Yes, a butterfly garden kit should ideally include flowers as they are an essential component of a butterfly-friendly habitat.

  • Painted Lady butterflies love Asters, Zinnias, Cosmos, Verbena, Lantana and Marigold flowers.
  • Milkweed is the most critical plant for Monarch butterflies.
  • To attract and support Swallowtail butterflies, include Butterfly Bush, Milkweed, Zinnia, Lantana, Joe-Pye Weed, Phlox or Monarda flowers.

Are butterfly kits ethical?

Butterfly kits can offer valuable educational opportunities, especially for children. They provide a hands-on way to learn about the life cycle of butterflies, metamorphosis, and the natural world. Ethically, education and fostering an appreciation for nature are positive aspects.

The ethical treatment of the butterflies throughout their life cycle is crucial. This includes providing appropriate food, shelter, and conditions for their development. Proper care minimizes stress and ensures their well-being.

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