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Frequently Asked Questions

If you don't see your question answered, then send me an email. I will do my best to answer it!

My caterpillar isn't moving. It hasn't moved in a long time. Is it dead? I gave it some food but it won't eat. Did I do something wrong?

No, your didn't do anything wrong BUT what you do need to do is leave the caterpillar alone! The caterpillar is probably getting ready to molt (shed its skin). When getting ready to molt, larvae stop eating and should not be disturbed.

How long does a Painted Lady butterfly live?

Most adult butterflies only live for around two weeks.

It's been raining outside and I can't release my butterflies. What can I feed them indoors?

You can slice up oranges or watermelon and place them in a shallow bowl inside the habitat. Painted Ladies will be happy to 'nectar' off of the fresh fruit! If you don't have access to either of these then get some clear Gatorade or even the purple or red Juicy Juice (yes, the children's drink!) and soak a sponge or some cotton balls in it. Place these in a shallow bowl inside the habitat. The butterflies will 'drink' the liquid.

Do caterpillars need water to drink? How about the pupa (chrysalis)?

No, caterpillars do not need to drink water as they get all the moisture they need from the fresh leaves they consume. The pupae do not need to be watered either. Moisture is NOT a good thing as it can lead to problems with molds, bacterial, and viral infections especially when you add heat to the mix. Keeping the environment clean and dry is going to be key to raising healthy butterflies.

My chrysalis fell. Is it dead? Should I try to hang it back up? What can I do?

First, answer this question: Do you see any liquid coming out of the chrysalis? If the answer is yes, then unfortunately, your butterfly is dead. If no liquid is coming out, then your butterfly is probably okay. You can do several things: you can leave the pupa on the ground (bottom of the habitat or whatever you are using to raise your butterflies), you can make a 'cushion' or pillow of tissues or even use a little towel to nestle the chrysalis in, you can even try to carefully use a thread to tie the cremaster (that little black thingie that attaches the pupa to whatever it was hanging from). Personally? I just leave the chrysalis alone and make sure that there's a stick nearby so that when the butterfly does eclose (come out of the chrysalis) it has a way to climb up and dry its wings and I make sure the pupa is on top of some tissue. Butterflies are pretty resilient creatures.

My caterpillars keep dying! I have sterilized everything and kept things clean. What am I doing wrong?

Don't be so hard on yourself. Keep in mind that the VAST majority of eggs laid do NOT make it to become adult butterflies! If even 10% of the eggs that one mama butterfly lays makes it to the adult butterfly stage then that would be an outstanding statistic. Predation, illness, parasites and other causes are often the causes of death. Many larvae die in the very earliest instars. Just continue to be diligent in your cleanliness.

I had all these caterpillars in my garden a little while ago. When I went to look again, they were all gone. What happened?

If you had seen large caterpillars then chances are, they were getting ready to pupate! Generally speaking, caterpillars will often take off and leave their host plants when they're ready to pupate as they want to find a safe spot for the ten days or so that they will spend in their next life-cycle stage. Don't be surprised to find a chrysalis in the most unusual place! Now, if your caterpillars were small, there are several possibilities for their disappearance. They may be hiding around the plant. A spider may have taken off with one for its dinner. The little caterpillar could have contracted an infection and simply died, it could have been eaten by a lizard, toad, or frog! Younger instars tend to die early so it isn't surprising to have them 'disappear.'

My butterfly has a bent wing. Should I try to fix it? Is there a video or something on how to do this?

There are a number of reasons why the butterfly ended up with a 'bent' wing and so it is hard to say just how it happened: perhaps there was an injury done to the larva. Although you can find videos on-line showing how to 'correct' a bent wing using glue and another butterfly's wing, I don't believe it is a good idea.

How do I euthanize a butterfly or caterpillar?

There are several ways to euthanize a sick insect or unhealthy insect. It depends upon what YOU feel most comfortable doing. One method is called the 'killing jar' where a jar with a lid is used. Soak a cotton ball with nail polish remover containing acetone and drop both the cotton ball and insect into the jar. Seal the jar and within minutes, the insect will be euthanized. Another is the 'freezing' method, my preference. Place the insect into a baggy, seal the baggy, and place it into the freezer overnight. The freezing temperatures will slow down the insect's body functions and you can then dispose of the baggy the following day.

2010 Learn about Painted Lady butterflies

Sherry Skipper Spurgeon

2010 Learn about Painted Ladies
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