Learn about the butterfly life cycle in your classroom with real caterpillars this spring! Students will love watching the caterpillars transform into butterflies with all of these helpful tips and resources to guide you plan an engaging unit.
One of my favorite things to do every spring is to watch the butterfly life cycle with my students. They get to excited to learn the steps and stages and really can’t believe that a caterpillar turns into a butterfly. It’s a very exciting unit of study.
This article works well with these Simply Kinder resources:
Every year we order our caterpillars from Insect Lore on Amazon, you can shop our affiliate link here. You can either get the caterpillars alone (you typically get five), the net alone, or a set with the caterpillars and the net. It really depends on what you need. Also, you can’t order them all year, so you will want to make sure your city and state is able to get them when you are trying to order them.
It’s a fun process, but if you have never done it you may not know what happens. So we documented ours for you here below.
Day 1: We opened the box and I honestly wondered if these little critters were alive. But as you stare at them more and more, they begin to move.
Day 2: They are growing! I don’t feel like they doubled in size, but they definitely are bigger than yesterday. There is one little guy that appears to be the runt.
Day 3: Just like that, they are so much bigger than yesterday! Almost doubled in size. They are moving a ton right now. It’s hard to tell by the picture, but they really are the size of a quarter at this point. Webs are starting to form too in the container.
Day 4: Today they are HUGE. One, in particular, has really done his job. They are moving all over the place and they are starting to explore the lid already. The cup has lots more webs in it (enough that one is actually sitting in the webs) and the food is starting to form little circles all in the cup. I am not sure if that is poop or what, but it’s there!
Day 5: They are getting bigger! They are all over the place.
Day 6: They are growing more and more. One, in particular, is HUGE! They are starting to be towards the top of the cup more and more every day! I feel like something is happening!
Day 7: We have a chrysalis! Just one. It must have been the huge one from the day before. The others are hanging out at the top too. One runt, I am not sure if he is going to make it to a chrysalis soon.
Day 9: Came in this morning to 3 more chrysalises on the lid. Unfortunately, the first one fell so we have four out of five transformed already. The one that fell is still there at the bottom and the color of his casing has changed. The one last little caterpillar is finally gaining some weight.
Day 10: We have all caterpillars in a chrysalis. The one that is now on the bottom of the cup is really becoming transparent and you can see his wings inside. We have not moved them to the net yet, we will do so tomorrow. We just want that one new chrysalis to be sturdy before we move them. Not sure if that is a valid scientific thing, but we will go with it for now!
Day 11: Today we moved them into their net. We followed the directions placing the lid into the holder of they provided. (This is much easier than attaching it to the top of the net like we used to have to do. The one that fell we carefully just poured onto the floor of the net. Here they will sit until they become butterflies.
Day 12: Butterflies are safely in their net and waiting to break out of their chrysalises.
Day 13 – Today we started to notice the stuff in the cup is starting to disintegrate. I was afraid that the little butterfly would not be able to spread his wings because he was like embedded in all that stuff but it’s like disappearing. Yay!
Day 14 – The chrysalises are getting browner and browner. You can tell things are happening in there! The one in the cup seems to be ok. We will see.
Day 15 – I am beginning to feel like we have duds. Will they ever turn into butterflies?
Day 16 – We have a butterfly! One from the lid emerged today. We think we caught it immediately after because he was definitely trying to gain control of his wings. The one in the cup too is definitely wiggling. At first I thought he was not going to make it, but as I walked to the trash can we noticed him moving! So back in the net he went and hopefully soon he will emerge!
Day 17 – And the other three crystallises on the lid emerged today! We didn’t get to see them break out, but we did see them start to spread their wings and try to get their grounding. Our lone butterfly in the cup has not emerged yet either. He was the first into a chrysalis so he really should be out by now. We can see him wiggling and moving to make it out, but he has not made it yet. Hopefully tomorrow.
And on Day 18 we let them go. This is a very exciting part for the students. We will stand in a circle around the net and slowly watch them fly away. It’s very magical!
So now you know how it works, here are some extra resources to make it more fun and effective.
Our butterfly learning journal goes PERFECTLY with this fun science unit. It starts off with some fun interactive activities (as seen above) and also has journaling pages so the students can write about what happens every day! Click here to check it out.
And we also have you covered with some teacher-approved videos. These are prefect for preschool, kindergarten, and first grade students. Click here to check them out now.