Butterfly growing is really simple and utterly entrancing.

My mini tutorial explains you everything you need to learn how to grow butterflies at home, where to buy a butterfly growing kit and what to feed growing caterpillars as you watch them transform into beautiful wild and free butterflies.

*This post is couple of years old but as we continually lurch from lockdown to isolation due to Coronavirus, it’s a perfect activity for families and children; indoor nature connection, without the need for a garden.

Are you looking for things to do with the kids in the holidays? Kids need nature more than ever and butterfly growing at home is a genuinely transformational activity for animal lovers to try this summer!

It’s a favourite indoor kids nature activity, allowing a truly up-close insight into the fascinating life cycle of butterflies, witnessing metamorphosis in your own home. Wow!

Children LOVE it; watch their expressions when releasing the butterflies.

Image of close up of child's captivated face looking at sitting butterfly on child's hand

What Is Butterfly Growing?

Butterfly growing is literally looking after caterpillars in your house until they transform into butterflies to be released into the wild. Watching the life cycle is amazing.

To learn how to grow butterflies at home, read on.

These are butterflies I’ve photographed in our garden or the wild

How to grow butterflies at home

Simply buy a butterfly growing kit (link at bottom) with live caterpillars, special food and a habitat net. Set it up and watch them grow.

Top tip

Buy an i-Spy butterfly spotting guide (scroll down) – an inspiring and really cheap little book that will encourage children to look out for butterflies on their travels, and tick off the ones you grow at home (usually Painted Lady butterflies in the UK but Monarch caterpillars are often sent in the US).

You will need:

  • a butterfly growing kit (see bottom of page)
  • a secure and safe shelf to store the butterfly net
  • patience

What to do:

1. Buy caterpillars

A lidded pot arrives in the post, (or box if you buy the full kit), filled with ‘sludge’ (caterpillar food) and 5 or 6 tiny live Painted Lady caterpillars.

Pop the cup on a safe shelf and watch the caterpillars munching until they become chrysalides hanging from the lid of the cup. It can take a couple of weeks.

Image close up of plastic lidded pot containing caterpillars, chrysalides and brown sludge caterpillar food

2. Move chrysalides to habitat net

After a couple of days carefully move the chrysalides and lid onto the ‘chrysalis station’ and place it securely in your butterfly habitat net.

3. Be patient!

The whole process takes two to three weeks and is truly captivating.

4. Meet Your Butterflies

Wait and watch as the chrysalides transform into butterflies! If you’re lucky you might get to see the butterflies actually emerge though ours always seem to sneak out over night.

5. Feed the newly emerged butterflies

Feed with fruit and nectar as per the instructions.

6. Release Into the Wild

Once the butterflies have built a little strength, release into the wild within 2 or 3 days.

Image of girl in dress unzipping cylindrical butterfly net to release dark coloured butterfly

A friend bought us our butterfly kit and we’ve successfully grown three lots of Painted Lady caterpillars as well as lending the habitat net for friends to use too.

Crumpled wings

The below photo is not long after emergence but we missed the actual event! Notice how soft and crumpled the wings are at first. It doesn’t really look like a butterfly. And the red substance isn’t blood but a liquid that comes out during emergence.

Image of orange and black butterfly looking squashed or crumpled with empty chrysalis behind

Caterpillars from the wild

We grew 6 Tortoiseshell butterflies from caterpillars (wild-collected in an area of nettles in a park that were about to be strimmed). These hungry munchers ate a whole stem of fresh nettles every day in order to grow large enough to pupate so it was quite a responsibility! Thankfully all of them survived to be released into the wild.

I don’t recommend taking caterpillars from the wild as many are protected and you not only need to know exactly what they eat (often just one plant for one species), you need to have a ready and fresh supply of it and this could mean removing protected wildflower species from the wild too.

Do a Butterfly Survey

If you don’t want to grow butterflies but have lots in your area, why not encourage the kids to identify and record what they see in a garden butterfly survey with Butterfly Conservation?

Attract Butterflies to Your Garden

Alternatively, attract butterflies to your own garden by creating a wildlife area with wildflower seeds and pollinator(bee and butterfly)-friendly plants. You don’t need much space – we plant wildflower seeds in a recycled wheelbarrow container, which looks pretty as well as being great for conservation. Find out how to make one here: create a mini meadow in a wheelbarrow

Image of girl-with-blue-painted wheelbarrow-full-of-wildflowers

Kids Nature Activities

For more nature connection activities, check out the Kids of the Wild’s gardening pages and read our indoor nature activity suggestions. Try this simple coconut bird feeder tutorial too.

For ongoing isolation activities don’t forget to follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and sign up to the website to receive the latest posts to your inbox.

Wild wishes that your hungry caterpillars turn into beautiful, brilliant butterflies!

Things To Do In The Holidays

For more indoor and outdoor activities for your kids in the holidays read: –

Home17 ways to connect with nature at home

Gardengo wild in the garden – 25 ways to connect with nature in your garden or yard

Outdoors30 super cool ideas for outdoor family fun

Why? – 11 reasons to get into the wild now

Get The Gear

Click images to find the best prices at Amazon.


i-Spy butterfly spotting book

(to purchase caterpillars at the correct time of year)

(to purchase live caterpillars direct to your door)