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Last Christmas I brought one of these for my kids. I managed to get it from Amazon for £10 which included postage. I wasn't quite sure how you got the butterflies at first but after reading the information understood that you send off for the caterpillars when you are ready and the weather is goo.
In the box
When the box arrived it contained a collapsible round net with a material base like canvas and a plastic see through top which is sealing with a zip and a material handle which has a Velcro fastener on it so can be hung easily.
Also it had instructions, a little drop dispenser and a order form.
The ordering of caterpillars was quite straight forward. You need them in the warmer months so in June I set about ordering the caterpillars worrying about them getting a headache whilst on route with Royal mail lol. You can order by post enclosing a cheque or postal order for the postage costs of caterpillars or do it on line. I had not realized until I received the box that there was a additional postage to pay but it was only £2.99. I placed my order online through the website which they gave details for in the instructions and was able to choose a certain day which I would like caterpillars to be dispatched. I think it was Tuesdays or Fridays so I choose Friday hoping they would arrive Saturday but they actually arrived Monday after 3 days being bumped around in their box.
I knew the caterpillars were coming in a small round plastic pot which contained a layer of their food on the base and a white plastic sealed lid. This pot was placed into a small cupboard box and they arrived with stickers on saying open immediately.
You don't know how many caterpillars you will get only between 3 and 6 and we were lucky to have 5 very hungry caterpillars arrive. The pot had a cupboard cover around it with a gap in it which we kept around the pot peering through the gap as they don't like direct sunlight.
Our caterpillars new home became the top of our wardrobe as this is the safest place that the kids can't reach as I feared they may end up being shaken or tipped upside down. I got them down lots for viewing sessions. These weren't just the kids present as they became mine too and my husband asked one day if I had got them for the kids or myself as I was spending more time then them watching the caterpillars eating and getting fatter by the hour.
I found it amazing how they moved about and one in particular really was a hungry caterpillar as always seemed to be eating and was the biggest of them all. The food in the bottom of the pot is a brown colour which looks like wet mud really and it starts to get less the more they eat. After we had them for 1 week the first caterpillar attached itself to the roof of the pot which was the under side of the lid and there it hung followed over the next few days by the rest of them all hanging. Now as they hang they become crystallized in little cocoons, you can still see them move a bit inside but suddenly the caterpillars are gone and you just have cocoons to watch instead.
Once they are all at cocoon stage you carefully (very carefully) remove the lid and transfer them to their new netted enclosure. The lid has a removable paper disc in it and you take this out and carefully attach it with a safety pin to the netting. I had to get help with this as it was quite tricky and didn't want them to fall.
It was then another 6 days after the first caterpillar hung that I was cleaning in the bedroom and looked in on them all still hanging no movement what so ever and as I was dusting the side I caught movement at the corner of my eye and looked and was shocked to see a beautiful butterfly in the enclosure. A minute before nothing so they come out of the cocoon very quickly. My son was so excited on his way home from school that day to see our new arrival. Over the next few days the remaining 4 butterflies appeared too, all as fast as the first and I never got to see one emerge.
I will warn you now though when they do leave the cocoons you will find some blood drops around the enclosure which is perfectly normal. I warned the kids before hand too so they wouldn't see blood and panic. Actually the proper word is meconium it is not blood it does look like it though.
Now they were all butterflies they needed more food and you can use the droplet dispenser to give them a sugar water solution on some tissue paper which you put in the base of enclosure and also several varieties of flowers they like with the sugar water on. I got some pink carnations which is their favourite (apparently) and used those with the droplets of sugar water on. I changed them to fresh ones every few days. They look similar to admiral butterflies but these were called painted lady ones.
Being that my son was about to leave Infants school and we had watched the butterflies for a week now I found it quite apt that he should take them to school and release them with his class as they like the butterflies were spreading their wings and moving on ( brings a tear to my eye still).
I threw the enclosure out after they were released as it was a bit messy but it says they are reusable so may have washed well but having mess in it felt safer to thrown away.
I do believe there will be some more caterpillars hatching any time soon as there was some rather interesting activities happening in their netted habitat that had my son asking "why are they stuck together mum" my reply was they are cuddling now leave them in peace whilst I was watching in amazement lol.
We all enjoyed the experience of this Lore butterfly gift and how amazing is true nature.
Highly recommend this for a gift or for yourselves.
We certainly will never look at butterflies in the same light again after owning this butterfly habitat and following the life cycle; it's been an amazing experience - though actually quite traumatic in parts; this is more than just a toy and it needs to be used responsibly. The kids have loved it, although only 3 of our 5 butterflies were perfect, so this in itself was quite a learning experience.
In the Box:
When you get the garden, currently £11.49 on Amazon, you have to send off for the caterpillars - this costs an extra £3, which I hadn't realised prior to ownership. It was easy enough to order and pay for the caterpillars, we did it online but you can also do so by post. You can specify when you want your self-contained pot of caterpillars and food to arrive, mainly you have to ensure you are able to take care of it for up to 5 weeks, in warmer weather it will take less time for the butterflies to develop. Our caterpillars arrived in a couple of days and took under 3 weeks in warmer weather to develop. They seemed happy enough to gorge themselves on the brown paste in the tub, although one failed to grow. The rest formed chrysalises and we transferred them to the garden itself after about 2 weeks. There was enough food in the tub to satisfy what were very hungry caterpillars, although I had to wonder if they weren't a bit cramped. In any case the pot was great for observing the caterpillars, which grew at an amazing rate, though the top was a little tricky to remove to transfer the chrysalises to the "garden" itself. In the box you get instructions, the garden, a pipette we never used, and details of how to send off for your live caterpillars.
From Chrysalis to Butterfly:
The garden is a pop up affair, a bit like one of those fabric storage tubs you can buy, with netting sides and a zip at the top. It's not actually that big - 30cm high and 25cm in diameter, but fairly good quality, with a brightly printed base it's appealing to children. Unfortunately once inside two of our chrysalises dropped off - we don't know why, maybe the extreme heat was to blame as they developed during a heatwave. This meant one of the butterflies was not able to develop perfect wings, and it was quite distressing realising this. The remaining ones (ie the 3 that had grown normally) did well and watching them emerge was just amazing, although I was glad that I had been warned by a friend that it can be a little messy, they extrude a fair bit of meconium, which it is quite good to be forewarned about.
I did think the habitat was a bit small for purpose, and could have done with a lid that was easier to unzip. We didn't have the heart to keep our butterflies the "couple of days" the company specify as they seemed quite cramped, though happy to feed on the sugar and water and fruit we provided them for the duration of their stay. Releasing them was very satisfying, and the kids loved it. We spotted "our" butterflies in the garden for a couple of days after we had let them go, and as an educational experience I felt that having had the butterfly garden meant that the children now have an appreciation of the butterflies they didn't have before, we have researched the Painted Lady butterfly, which is the type we reared, and it was certainly something they will never forget.
I would do this again, though the replacement kit is quite pricey, - at over £9 currently, the instructions were good, it was very educational but I did wonder as to the success rate and life quality of the butterflies; if less then 3 survive there is a guarantee certificate for replacements, but losing any is actually harder than I had thought. In the words of my enthralled 9 year old "at least we know about the life cycle now mummy, and how special it is" whilst the 7 year pronounced it "4 stars mummy, because it's amazing but a bit, you know, icky" - I couldn't put it better myself.
When I was a child it seemed like caterpillars were everywhere. You'd see on the footpath devouring my grandparents vegetable path etc... The though of paying for caterpillars would have seemed mad, and that is larger part of what you are paying for when you buy this kit. Personally, I would have preferred to scoop up a local caterpillar, keep it fat and well fed until big enough to release and then turn it loose. But after searching for 6 years we have only seen a wild caterpillar once- years ago while waiting for a train. We left him alone as it was far from home and I wouldn't want to have travelled back to release it - and some species do need specific environments. Out of curiosity. I offered the local boys a fiver per caterpillar ( only going up to two) near the river path, where years ago there were many. We did get one caterpillar once from a neighbour, who rescued it from her cat, but they are very hard to come by now. The kids searched for weeks with no luck. he caterpillars seem to have vanished. If I wanted my sons to enjoy the experience of seeing a caterpillar transform into a butterfly - I would have to pay for it.
Insect Lore's Butterfly Garden currently sells for £11. 49. I was lucky and picked one up before Christmas for roughly £5 from Amazon Warehouse Deals. However, you should be aware that there is an additional charge of £2.99 for postage and handling to get your 5 "free" Painted Lady* caterpillars. Personally, I feel they should just add £3 to the purchase price of the kit, so it could be all paid for once.
What's in the box?
The main thing in the box is a pop up net butterfly cage. Of course they don't call them cages anymore - it sounds a bit cruel, so it is called a habitat. I highly doubt the butterfly cares what you call it. It is in fact a cage, and not really the nicest place to live as they don't have room to fly, but we release ours right after they hatch. the net cage is 12.5" tall and 10" across. You also get a wee plastic "feeding pipette" which is useless as there is no way they are going to eat from this, and instruction sheet and some activity suggestions. Finally you get a coupon with a code to order five caterpillars for £2.99 as opposed to the usual price of £9.95. I bought this kit because I thought the net cage would be nice to have, and the price of the kit plus the price of shipping for caterpillars was less than buying the caterpillars alone.
I bought this in the winter, knowing I would not be able to use the kit at this time. I just put it away and waited for better weather. When I finally went to order there was a problem. Instead of an 0800 number to call, it was a 1800 number at the internet would not accept my code for the discount. It was only when I looked at the address to redeem the coupon through the post I realised the problem. The address was in the USA. I emailed the UK office who were very, very helpful. The USA kits are not meant to be sold in the country, but they keep popping up. I bought directly from Amazon, but it was a customer return - hence the great price. It seems many Amazon Marketplace sellers have been selling the American kits. I can only speculate that someone got the American one from the Marketplace, realised it was for the USA and ordered another from Amazon swapping certificates. The box had been opened. But Insect Lore assured me first and foremost that they would honour the certificate. They definitely put customer service ahead of a profit here. They only wanted to know details of where it came from to try and stop further US kits from being sold here.
They gave me the option of sending in a check ( I don't even have a check book anymore) or paying via debit or credit card on the phone, which I did. Apparently the problem of American kits being sold n the UK has not been completely resolved, but details on redeeming the certificates are posted on the Amazon site now.
Once we got the issue of the certificate sorted we received the caterpillars 2 days after ordering. They came in a little plastic jar with a layer of green goop which is meant to be their food. They are meant to remain in the jar until they form cocoons. There is a small bit of paper at the top of the jar which you are meant to remove once they have all formed cocoon and place in the net. According to the instructions you can keep the butterflies in the net once they have emerged from their cocoons and feed them with new bit of sponge soaked in sugar water or cut open fruit, we have done this with wild butterflies caught for a quick photo before releasing, but we were never able to observe these feeding, making a quick release very necessary.
You can probably guess by my over us of the term "meant to" this isn't quite how we did it. I bought a good sized Hollyhock plant and placed it in the net. I thought the caterpillars would munch a few leaves and I would plant it afterwards. I bought another plant to place in the garden right away. I then put the jar with the lid off in the net. Three caterpillars crawled out and devoured the plant. They ate and ate and ate.
Two stayed in the jar eating the goop. One of these died right away and I was convinced the second was dead as well as wrapped some web around itself and lay at the bottom of the cup for over a week, while the other caterpillars had finished the final molt and gone right back to munching. The only reason I didn't bin it was by the time I was completely convinced it was dead, the first of the larger caterpillars was already in a cocoon and it would be difficult to remove the cup without disturbing the cocoon on the roof of the cage. However a few days after the last of the caterpillars had moved into the cocoons our late bloomer emerges from his sleep and happily devoured the leaves I placed in from the Hollyhock which was now growing in the garden. Not only did the late bloomer sleep during his molting periods longer - he also stayed in his cocoon far longer, sand again I was fairly well convinced he was dead when he finally climbed out today. We took him out to the garden and placed on the thistle, next to the hollyhock, with a bit of cut strawberry for juice, and he is still there. He seems to be a lazy sort. Of course I'm assuming it is a he. I don't know how to tell the difference in sexes but being that hard to get from his bed - it just must be. Because of our experience with the late bloomer I would have to advise not to throw apparent casualties in the bin. I would suggest leaving them near a suitable plant just in case if you really don't want to wait anymore. The thought of the poor thing emerging from a cocoon sealed up in a rubbish bag sounds horrid.
I have to say I was shocked at how much these creatures eat. The food supplied with them was meant to be enough, but they ate and ate and ate. My sons loved this, calling them the very hungry caterpillars. They also pooped and pooped and pooped. I couldn't believe how much caterpillar poo accumulated at the bottom of the net and cleaning it out was some job. I would also note that a red dye like stuff comes out of the cocoon when the butterfly emerges. This looks like blood, but it is really more poo and pee which accumulates as the creature transforms. I also have to warn if you decide to let the caterpillars have the run of the net cage, be certain the zipper is closed as tightly as possible. One escaped on us the first day, but thankfully we caught climbing down the net on his way to freedom.
It took two weeks for our caterpillars to enter the cocoons, and even longer for the lazy one. The food had dried up into a solid brick by then which looked completely inedible. If you do intend to use only the food that comes with them, I think you will have to follow the instructions and keep the jar closed the whole time. Of course with the amount of poo they make, the poor things will be nearly buried in it and have to tunnel through poo to reach any food. With a small container, a two supply of poo and dried up food, and any casualties dead bodies laying about as well - it doesn't sound a very healthy living environment. I would much prefer to feed them on a natural food source, but please be aware - they eat a lot. If I did this again I would plant suitable food plants well in advance of buying the caterpillars. In fact the main thing keeping me from buying more right away is waiting for the plants to grow. I did throw a lettuce leaf in to see if they would eat it, but the would not. You will need a good supply of suitable plants.
My children really did enjoy the experience, and I do feel it was educational as well. I have washed the net out and almost certainly will buy more caterpillars at some point, but I will most likely try other native varieties from ebay. Ebay also offers several foreign species but I feel it very dangerous to release any non native species - and we do like to set them free afterwards. If I wanted to keep the butterflies in captivity I would insist on a cage large enough to allow flight. However, I would not hesitate to use Insect Lore again if we needed more Painted Ladies.
In addition to enjoying watching how caterpillars change, I think this set made my sons a lot more aware of caterpillars and butterflies in general. We have planted the surviving Hollyhock in the garden to attract butterflies as well a thistle and mint plants. We have tried planting cabbage, which can attract other types of butterflies, but the slugs keep getting it. We will however maintain a small garden of butterfly friendly plants, hoping to provide just a little bit of extra habitat.
* Painted Ladies are a regular visitor to Britain, stopping over as part of their migration. They can not survive the British winter though. The adults feed on nectar from flowers, but they can drink juice from cut or smashed fruit as well. The caterpillars eat nettle, mint, hollyhock and thistle. They have a wingspan of 5 -9 centimetres and are predominantly orange with black wing tips, trim and markings and white spots on the black wing tips. The underside of the wings is a brownish colour.
My Daughter was 18 months old when I bought this kit as she was so fascinated with butterflies at that time. I saw it advertised on television and bought it when you got 10 caterpillars for the price of 5! I was so excited when it arrived and then realised after opening the kit that you then need to either send off the certificate for your caterpillars or redeem online by using a code.
The Live Butterfly Garden Includes:
* Pop-up, reusable 30cm tall mesh habitat perfect for butterfly viewing!
* Feeding Pipette
* Complete Instructions
* A cup of 5 live caterpillars (we were lucky to receive 10 caterpillars)
After paying a nominal postal fee for the caterpillars (£2.99 I think), the caterpillars arrived within one week - although they do state that you can wait 1-2 weeks as they are being posted from Europe.
One of the most important things to bear in mind is the timings for ordering your caterpillars - it takes approximately 3 weeks for them to complete their life cycle and the caterpillars can be ordered between late February and late September.
The caterpillars arrived in a small cardboard box (I was a bit worried about the state they may be in due to travelling in this packaging) - however, I needn't have worried as all 10 caterpillars (5 in each container) were absolutely fine. The containers have air holes in the lid, which has a picture of the Painted Lady butterflies that they are to turn into. The sides of the containers are clear so you can see inside and there is a cardboard outer layer that can be removed. We never removed this as you could see clearly through the two sides that were left uncovered.
The first thing my Daughter wanted to do was to open the lid of the containers, which of course, I explained that the caterpillars had to live in this home until they had built a new home. She was absolutely fascinated with the changes observed over the next 2-3 weeks. This is our diary:
Day One: Received the caterpillars (29/6/11)
Day 7 Caterpillars had grown dramatically in size (5/7/11)
Day 9 All caterpillars had formed into chrysalides (8/7/11). We then transferred to them to the netting provided by opening the containers and pinning the card they were stuck to onto the sides of the netting.
Day 17 Butterflies started to emerge and we witnessed one emerging! (15/7/11) At this point we put in some banana, oranges and sugar water (by using the pipette provided)
Day 18 The last two butterflies emerged (16/7/11)
Day 20 The day that all 10 butterflies were we set free on (18/7/11)
Day 20 was a very exciting day and when the butterflies were set free, they stayed in the garden for around an hour. We were lucky that they actually flew onto us and I took some amazing pictures of them.
As a Reception Teacher, I have just ordered this kit for my class and we received 5 caterpillars last week. It is great that they are as excited about observing the changes as my Daughter was and I cannot wait for them to be able to witness the life cycle of a butterfly first hand and set them free!
What is the butterfly garden?
It is a set that gives you all the tools needed to watch butterflies complete their life cycle and then little on releases them into the wild it is both good fun and very educational it is recommended from 4 years plus which seems the perfect age for my son.
What do you get in the set?
You get a butterfly garden which is basically a netted cylinder that has a zip at the top for easy access in and out. This is collapsible when not in use so it does not take up too much storage space yet when opened to full size is a decent size for the butterfly's to move around in. It also has a carry handle so when it comes to transporting the butterflies outside this is easily done.
Also you receive a voucher for 3 to 5 painted lady caterpillars which you need to send off to claim as for obvious reasons they cannot pack live caterpillars in the boxes when purchased. In the box you also receive a feeding pipette for the butterflies after they have emerged but as my children wanted to release them after a day so we only used it to feed them sugar and water to get their strengths up.
Ordering the caterpillars
Due to having to release the butterflies in certain weather you can only order the butterflies between the last week in February and the first week in October so if you are ordering for a gift between these times please be warned your child will have to wait to begin the process. As my son's birthday is at the start of July we were lucky and were able to order them straight away.
In the box you receive a certificate to get your caterpillars this is valid for 3 to 5 and you can either send a voucher away or order online. We chose to order online as my son was desperate to start and this is the quickest way. Although the caterpillars are free you do have to pay a small postal charge and I believe it was around £2.99 so this is an extra cost factor but not too expensive.
2 days later we received a parcel through the post which told us to open immediately in this was a small plastic jar with holes at the top so the caterpillars could breath. The plastic is of course transparent so you can watch what is going on and in this we found there was a thick layer of a creamy substance at the bottom of the jar which is their food. Then 5 tiny little caterpillars and we were worried at first as they were not moving.
You also receive instructions with the jar that tells you to keep the jar flat at all times and not to sit the jar near sunlight as they can overheat and kill the caterpillars so we read them and they were really simple to follow.
The caterpillars growing and transferring them to the garden
The caterpillars take a few weeks to complete the whole process but the development is obvious very quickly from day one they were tiny little dots at the bottom of the jar but each morning when my children and I checked they had become bigger. The bigger they grew the quicker things started to being happening first they grew in to large caterpillars then they sprouted the little white hairs and then the jar began to look old and grotty and the food at the bottom of the jar had been all crunched up by the now large caterpillars and the silk webs began to form around the jar so we knew that they would begin to cocoon soon.
After around a week and a half we came downstairs to find 3 of the caterpillars hanging from the top of the jar and the other two were still eating the food. A few days later all 5 had attached themselves upside down from the lid of the jar and it was time to move them in to the pop up garden.
This was easy to do you simply remove the cardboard prop that sits in the lid with the chrysalisis attached and carefully safety pin it to the net so they are still hanging upside down . Then it is just the waiting game and although we watched and watched we failed to see any of them emerge from the chrysalisis.
The butterfly's coming out the chrysalisis
We missed each one of the emerging although two of them did not cocoon for a few days after the rest we came down one morning to find all five of the butterfly's moving around the net and the look on my children faces was priceless. You can decorate the garden for the butterflies so we added some leaves, sticks and an orange for them but this was short lived as my children hated seeing them stuck in the garden.
It says you can keep the butterfly's for up to 4 days in the butterfly garden enclose that you receive but to be honest my children were eager to let them be free so we only kept them for a day after they hatched before releasing them in to the wild. This gave them the chance to dry their wings and get there strength up ready for being released. They played in the garden for around half an hour before they actually flew away which was great because the children got to watch them out in the wild for a little while before saying goodbye to them.
Overall this is a fantastic present for any child my children are only 1 3 and 4 and are really starting to become interested in the world around them and they loved seeing the process a butterfly travels to be the beautiful creature they are. The full process takes between three and four weeks which although is a lifetime for children really is not that long.
As the butterfly kit is yours to keep you can re purchase more caterpillars from the site for around £6 which means you can watch the whole process over again and I am sure we will be doing so next year when my youngest son is a little older as my 2 eldest children really enjoyed this.
It is very simple to do and it is basically fool proof so it easy for young children to take part but the results are fantastic both fun and educational. We brought a book to read to the children to explain the whole process as it happened which was a bedtime favourite for the whole time we had the caterpillars and they would rush downstairs to check them in the morning. The set retails between £14.99 and £20 and adding in the £2.99 postal fee I still think this is a fantastic price to pay for such a wonderful experience for younger children and would highly recommend it to anyone. We brought ours from Amazon but they are available from many different places so do shop around.
Late last year, I remember reading several excellent reviews on the Insect Lore Butterfly Garden . It sounded incredibly appealing - so appealing in fact that I almost immediately went onto Amazon and purchased one as a christmas gift for my daughter .
The kit, as it turned out was a terrible Christmas present . The kit itself was perfect - a lovely brightly coloured pop up habitat with a zip opening and mesh sides, through which you could see your butterflies. Although caterpillars were not included in the kit itself , they were included in the price - you simply had to send off the voucher at the bottom of the instruction leaflet, and you'd receive the caterpillars in the post. Nope, the kit was lovely, no doubt about it , but it was upon reading the instructions that I realised I wouldn't be able to actually get my caterpillars until late February at the earliest, since they need a nice warmish temperature in which to grow, evolve, and hopefully be released. Clearly this was bad timing on my part, and after a cursory glance, my daughter put this kit in the back of her wardrobe, disgusted that her evil mummy had purchased her a gift that was, for the time being, useless.
However, in early march, we remembered about the kit . I filled in and sent off the form for my caterpillars, and received them through my door in about a week. I was better organised this time round - I'd read the instructions thoroughly, and knew that it could be anywhere between 3-5 weeks before the caterpillars were released, so I'd ensured we had no plans to go away. They came in a cardboard box that had the words 'Open Immediately' stamped across it, and not being one to ignore simple instructions, I ensured that we did .
Inside was a clear plastic pot, slightly larger than a yoghurt pot, with a white lid that had air holes punctured in it to allow the caterpillars to breathe. There is a label on the top telling you what kind of caterpillars they are (painted lady) and the bottom of the pot has a thick beige layer - this is the caterpillars food. There is also a cardboard sleeve you can pop round the cup that has holes cut in for viewing.
You don't need to do anything with the caterpillars at this point - simply observe. When we first got them, they were tiny, and actually didn't seem to really do much at all . However, within four or five days we started to notice that these little monsters were growing at a very rapid rate.They went from tiny, soft squidgy looking things to huge spiky caterpillars, and they seemed to grow even as we watched . The smooth beige disk of food at the bottom of the cup soon became churned up, with bits of it spread all over the container.
After another couple of days, we started seeing silk thread beginning to cross the cup. We knew that soon the caterpillars would be turning into chrysalides, so we decided at this point to decorate our habitat a little, adding in some dry twigs, some stones, and a little moss. Soon the caterpillars had all moved to the top of the pot, and were hanging upside down fully encased in their cocoons. We watched as , over the course of a few days, these became glossy and hard - an indication that they were ready to be moved from their cup into the hatching habitat . This was easily done, we simply removed the disk from the lid of the cup, and pinned it carefully to the mesh sides of the habitat .
Sadly, we did not actually see any of the butterflies hatch - we simply woke up one morning, and instead of hanging upside down by their bums, there were three butterflies clinging to the sides of the cage. At this point we needed to start providing them with some food - we opted for some sliced banana and apple, and a couple of wet leaves, but the leaflet offers a good number of suggestions . With three having hatched behind our backs, we were really keen to at least see one of the other two emerge, but they chose to be just as sneaky, emerging whilst we were having a meal out .
They didn't really do a lot at first - they seemed to just hang onto the sides of the habitat, with their wings closed, which was a shame as we wanted to see the pretty colours . However, these do live for three to five weeks, so there was no hurry to immediately release them, and after a few days they became a little more active, spreading their wings more so we could look at them, and feeding more. The habitat was easily portable so long as we were gentle, and I did find that taking the habitat outside so they could feel the breeze did stir them into action a little.
After about a week of observation, we decided to release them out into the wild - it was quite emotional really watching them all fly away . However,we still have the habitat itself, which is excellent for observing all manner of insects and is currently housing a couple of spiders. I think this is a brilliant educational toy that will interest children for a long time, and that can be used in conjunction with other activities - for example, I think this toy would work brilliantly alongside a reading of 'The Very Hungry Caterpillar' for younger children, but would also work equally well for slightly older children studying minibeasts at school.
The kit costs £14.99 from amazon.co.uk and includes 5 caterpillars. Refill packs of caterpillars can also be purchased, costing £7.60.
I think this is a brilliant toy - just don't do as I did and buy it as a present at a time when it can't actually be used!
It all started many months ago when my daughters received the Insect Lore Butterfly Garden as a Christmas present. It all looked very intriguing as it came in quite a large box that contained a reusable, collapsible habitat, a small pipette and not much else! Where were the butterflies we asked? This was before that these were going to be actual live butterflies that we would watch emerge from chrysalides having first been caterpillars that would be sent through the post! 'Very interesting!' we thought before forgetting all about it for many months.
However, round about June time my daughters rediscovered the box and just started playing with the habitat. This is quite an attractive thing with see through netting, a butterfly patterned flooring and some artificial yellow flowers. This reminded us that we had failed to do anything about using this so we then looked at the instructions more closely and found out what we had to do!
Part of the kit contains a certificate that you can use to send off for your caterpillars, or you can redeem them on line quoting the caterpillar Certificate Code that is supplied with the certificate. We chose to order on line as this was quicker and easier. The first thing that we realised though was that we needed to do a bit of calculation over what we were doing during the summer. You can order your caterpillars any time between late February and late September. You have to bear in mind that you will be releasing your butterflies between three and five weeks after receiving the caterpillars so you do need to make sure that you will be around at the crucial times. This was why we eventually ordered ours so that the butterflies would definitely start emerging after the girls were back at school - and luckily we did get our sums right!
Redeeming the code was very simple and we were able to pick the delivery date we wanted. The caterpillars duly arrived in a small cardboard box with the instruction to OPEN IMMEDIATELY - which we did. We discovered that the box contained two small Perspex containers with five caterpillars in each. The caterpillars were absolutely minute and it was fascinating to watch them on a daily basis to see just how quickly they grew - which seemed to be at a phenomenal pace. When they arrive you keep the caterpillars in the containers which also have all of the food that they need in order to grow. Therefore at this point you do not need to do anything other than observe with awe as they grow at such a rapid pace. The instructions tell you that when the caterpillars are ready to become chrysalides they will climb to the top of the container where they spin a silk pad and hang upside down. Unfortunately, at this point we were away and missed this exciting stage and I would definitely try to time it to be around for this part if we decided to do it another year.
Luckily my next door neighbours kept an eye on them and transferred them to the habitat at the crucial moments. On our return we had ten chrysalides hanging to the side netting just waiting to emerge as butterflies. Every day we kept having a little look to see if there were signs of anything happening - I guess we were a little bit like nervous expectant parents! The funny thing was that, in the end, we kept looking and looking and seeing nothing happening, that we almost missed the arrival of the butterflies themselves! My husband was having a look on Friday and must have been staring in for a good couple of minutes before he realised that he could see a butterfly! Then having spotted one, we realised that there were more, and in fact five butterflies had emerged while our backs were turned! At first they didn't do much but soon became quite lively especially when we started providing some fruit and sugar water. Over the course of the next two days, four more emerged so in the end we had nine beautiful butterflies - we don't know what happened to number ten but I can only assume that it was a cruel act of nature. However, we did think that nine butterflies were very successful. By the way, these butterflies are all Painted Ladies and they are extremely beautiful and fascinating to watch.
You can keep the butterflies for a couple of days and watch all of the things that they do. You do need to feed them through this time and the instructions provide recommendations. Ultimately though, you do need to release them into the natural environment where they will live for anything between two and five weeks! I haven't told my daughters this and they like to think of them having a long and happy existence elsewhere!
Overall this has been a fantastic experience for my two daughters and they have really loved watching the caterpillars grow, turn into chrysalis and ultimately emerge as butterflies. The excitement when they came home from school and discovered the butterflies is indescribable! They have been able to learn about the life cycle and to observe these beautiful creatures close up. Also, as we still have the habitat, we know that we will be able to repeat the experience another time if we wish - and I'm sure that we probably will want to!
This is a totally fabulous gift for children and also very unusual. It is currently available on Amazon for £12.93 (September 2010) which I think is fabulous value.
To find out more you can visit www.insectlore.biz which is also the address for ordering your caterpillars.
My little boy has always been fascinated with creepy crawlies and bugs, back in May he would ask question after question about caterpillars so his grandparents decided to buy him a Butterfly Kit for his birthday.
In the box is a hatching net which looks like a mini version of a pop up washing basket, the net is made out of a white mesh, down the bottom of the net is a lovely scenery of flowers and butterflies. The lid is made out of a clear plastic and there is a zip going around half of the lid so that the butterflies do not escape and there is a carry handle.
Also in the box is an instruction booklet on how to care for the caterpillars and a voucher which you send off to purchase your caterpillars.
My mother in law sent off the voucher and the caterpillars arrived very quickly, they came in a clear tub which had little pellets of food down the bottom and the tub also contained some eggs. My mother in law kept the tub in a window for a few days which caused the caterpillars to hatch she then moved them away from direct sunlight.
When my son told me he wanted to bring the caterpillars home so he could see them grow everyday the first thing I said was no way! But I was persuaded that they would be kept somewhere out of my way and so I agreed.
We kept them on a shelf in my husbands study away from bright sunlight as it said in the leaftlet that they could get sick and die.
For the first few days my husband and son noticed that the caterpillars were very very slow and were not doing much but then they seemed to go on a growth spurt and started to become very lively I was even brave and took a few peeks!
First thing every morning my son would ask to see the caterpillars to see if they had grown or had started to form their chrysalises.
My son started to notice that the tub had little white strands and the caterpillars who were quite fat started to slow down until one morning we woke up to find four of them hanging down from the top of the lid and then a couple of days later they started to go into a chrysalis but the fifth one was not as big as the others and so he was still munching on his food and my son found it quite amusing that this caterpillar was going around trying to wake the others up. It took an extra couple of days for the fifth one to go into his chrysalis.
Once the shells hardened my husband carefully moved them to their new home, he found it quite tricky to pin them inside the net and then it was just a matter of waiting for them to come out of their shells.
One evening a week after the caterpillars had gone into their chrysalises my husband took a look and noticed that we had a beautiful butterfly, by the morning there were 3 more butterflies!
In the leaflet that came in the box it suggested that we placed some flowers inside the net and to add a surgary solution over the flowers as the butterflies would like it.
After a couple of days our butterflies did not seem happy in their new home and so we knew it was time to release them. We opened up the net and one of the butterflies flew out but the other four did not want to go! So we left them for a bit and then my husband removed the flowers from inside their home which was enough for three of them to fly out. The last butterfly was very slow and so my husband placed him on one of our flowery bushes we then checked on him a couple of hours later and he flew off.
***What do I think***
I really want to recommend this kit I think it is a fun thing for all the family, it is amazing watching the whole process from the start and to see how an ugly caterpillar turns into such a beautiful butterfly!
What I like about this kit is you do not have to touch or feed the caterpillars as everything they need is in their tub and in the instructions you are told not to open the lid until the caterpillars have gone into their chrysalises.
It took about a month for the caterpillars to turn into butterflies and my son was very interested in his new pets for the whole time. He would give me a daily report seeing as I would not look at them and loved that the caterpillars constantly changed like when we first had them they were I would say a grey colour and were tiny but landed up being big, black and hairy.
Just before the summer holiday my son was learning about creepy crawlies, bugs and caterpillars in school so he was very excited that he was able to take his pets into school to show his friends and the day he broke up from school he was able to take in pictures of the butterflies.
The good thing about this kit is we can use the net over and over, it costs £11.74 for another set of caterpillars which can be purchased between March and Septemeber.
For ages 4+
Butterfly Garden with 5 caterpillars £19.99 but have a look on Amazon as I have seen them priced for £12.
Science can be really fun to teach young preschoolers, especially if you have a Butterfly garden. We ordered this about three years ago for our center, and our children were amazed to watch a caterpillar change into a butterfly.
I like this garden because it is reusable. You just buy the kit and send away for your caterpillars. Year after year you can use the same garden, making this a very well worth the money investment.
You caterpillars arrive and are in a cup, which they stay in for a few weeks. Their food is included in the cup, so that is pretty easy. Once their chyrasalises are made, they may be transferred to the bottom of the net (garden). Within a few or so the butterflies hatch and you will be responsible for feeding them until they are ready to be released into the wild. This is a great way to show children about science and nature.
The Butterfly Garden by Insect Lore
On a recent day teaching a reception class my wife came across this really clever idea for introducing small children to life processes, a key part of the foundation stage. The company supply a range of products around tending to and learning about mini beasts and of particular interest was this kit for growing your own butterflies.
You start with very small caterpillars; watch them grow into nice fat caterpillars, form chrysalises and emerge as bright, colourful butterflies that can then be set free. How nice is that?
What you get~
The caterpillars arrive by post in a small clear plastic cup. It has a paper seal where the chrysalis will eventually attach and a plastic cap. At the bottom of the cup is a light brown fudge which will be the caterpillars food (and toilet) for the first couple of weeks. A few days later you receive the butterfly hatching net, a mesh tub about 30cm tall with a zip opening at the top. You also get some instruction leaflets telling you how to care for the caterpillars and butterflies and giving plenty of background information on both. Home kits come with 5 caterpillars while 33 caterpillar kits are available for the classroom. The nets are reusable so you only need to pay for the caterpillars if you want to repeat the experiment.
The Insect Lore website is well laid out and it is easy to navigate around the various product lines. Most things can be ordered online but you can also order by phone where the staff are helpful and enthusiastic.
A lot of the live products are available seasonally; after all it would be a bit mean to release the butterflies in December but this is all clearly indicated on the website.
The caterpillars are posted on a Friday and generally arrive the next day for private buyers, for schools and nurseries deliveries will be arranged to suit the teachers.
For the first few days the caterpillars are quite drowsy and dont move around much. Theyre grey and pretty small, about 5 millimetres long. By the end of the first week they are a little bigger and are wriggling around the bottom of the cup quite happily.
During the second week the caterpillars grow dramatically, up to two or three centimetres long and quite fat. They have also turned black.
By the third week they are pretty chunky, theyve put a dent into the food and made quite a mess of the clear plastic cup. The walls of the cup are quite cloudy and there are plenty of silken threads around the pot. By the end of the week they may have started to form chrysalises.
When the chrysalises have been made and are hanging from the paper seal they can be gently removed and transferred to the hatching net. You should add some sticks and flowers to the net to make it cosy for them.
After a week or so the butterflies will hatch from the chrysalis and begin to flutter around the net. They need to be fed sugar water and given a couple of days to get their strength up and dry out their wings and can then be released into the wild.
What really happens~
The reality is very similar to the planned schedule. These kits are designed for small children and physical contact with the animals is limited almost down to nothing. The only necessary contact is when transferring the chrysalis from the pot to the habitat but being such a delicate job is probably best done by the grown up helper.
Ours duly arrived one Saturday morning in a small sturdy box. Having been in the dark overnight the five small caterpillars were presumably asleep and there was little activity at first. Within a few hours though they were perking up and wriggling around. As far as caring for them goes there is not a lot to do, keep them somewhere well lit but not in direct sunlight, not too hot and not too cold and thats about it, everything they need is in the sealed pot. All you need to do is talk about them with the child, draw pictures and take some photos.
Progress is pretty quick in the couple of weeks as they double and then double again in size, more drawings and the opportunity to give them names. Little C, ever the practical girl however, didnt bother with names: They all look the same she explained, quite correctly. For the next week or so things slow down and changes are less noticeable, at this point with the caterpillars getting quite big and sturdy it is a shame they are sealed in their little pot as it would be a nice time to handle them. I remember as a kid I had a neighbour a couple of years older than me who, like the boy in Kes, was always rescuing baby birds and feeding stray cats. He also used old seed trays to make little caterpillar and spider farms and we would hunt round the gardens and parks locally looking for specimens and the best bit was always having fat hairy caterpillars crawling up your arm.
Unfortunately at this point in our experiment disaster struck. At the end of May we were hit with a very cold snap and whether because of this or some other problem two of our caterpillars wriggled their last and died. Insect Lore will replace any caterpillars that die, but as this involves posting the little dead bodies back to the company we didnt bother.
The remaining three continued to thrive and in time crawled to the top of the pot and made their, surprisingly small, chrysalises attached to the paper seal. These were duly transferred to the butterfly net and then left to their own devices. Although there is quite a lot of magical stuff going on inside the pods to the outside observer this is a pretty quiet week and it is only in the last day or so that the butterfly form can be seen through the pod walls.
A couple of days later all three hatched (is that the right word?) and began fluttering around the net, their wings initially a dull brown but developing deeper shades of red over night. The hatching is quite a messy affair with enough blood to make the net look like a set from Reservoir Dogs by the time they were all finished. By all accounts (I was at work at the time) the hatching was an impressive moment which got Little C very excited, she was still excited several hours later when I came home and couldnt wait to show them to me. Shed even gone so far as to give them names now even though they all still looked the same.
The day arrived to release the three butterflies and it was an exhilarating moment, Little C was excited and to be honest so was I. With a little coaxing they edged their way to the open end of the net and hopped onto the patio. Within minutes they were up, fluttering in circles around the garden. Two flew off over the neighbours garden and the third came to rest in a tree at the end of the garden. We were savouring the moment and enjoying our last glimpse of the third butterfly when BOOM, like an exocet this Robin Red Breast swooped out of nowhere and bagged it. The poor little fella flapped spastically to the floor while the evil Robin sat mere yards away eyeing it in an unnervingly cat like way. Oops, more life lessons than wed intended to cover in one day but we shooed the bird away and moved the poor butterfly to the front garden to give him a fighting chance. That Robin had been a welcome visitor to our garden in the past but if I see him again Ill have to get the shotgun out I think.
All in all the experience was a very enjoyable and enriching exercise (despite the odd set back). I think Little C got quite a lot out of it and I expect most other children would as well. This is a really good idea for the home as well as the classroom.
Further details are available from www.insectlore-europe.com/index.html
This product allows you to build and maintain your very own butterfly garden.